Back to Godhead magazine is a cultural presentation to respiritualize human society. It aims at achieving the following purposes:
1. To help all people distinguish more clearly between reality and illusion, spirit and matter, the eternal and the temporary.
Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare
Fighting in the Smog
I LEFT LOS ANGELES EARLY on the morning of the riots. My departure was coincidental. I'd stayed in L.A. for two days, and now I was off to a meeting in Denver. So I missed it all. The pillars of smoke didn't start billowing into the sky till later that day.
I suppose it's not very saintly of me (no, I don't like to see people suffer), but there's something about the thought of L.A. going up in smoke that very much appeals to me. I picture myself driving up the San Diego Freeway past broad meadows, cows grazing on the site of what used to be Los Angeles.
Pleasant thoughts aside, we're still stuck with L.A. But it's just a matter of time.
It's said that Krsna in His incarnation as Lord Ananta lies at the bottom of the universe in the form of a gigantic serpent, waiting till the time for the cosmic annihilation. Then He'll scorch all the worlds to cinders with flames from His mouth.
Sometimes He'd like to do it sooner.
By Krsna's arrangement, human life in the material world is meant to give us a chance for self-realization. So when Lord Ananta sees what we're doing with that chance, He gets so angry He feels like torching the whole place, straight away.
Anyway, He doesn't. He holds off till it's time—and that's still millions of years from now. Meanwhile we're busy making things hot for ourselves.
As in Los Angeles. From Beverly Hills to the city docks, it's a crummy, nasty, stinking city, full of air you don't want to breathe, people you don't want to see, streets you don't want to drive on, enterprises you'd like to shove into the ocean.
It's a bubbling, fuming brew of nature's lower modes, the modes of passion and ignorance. When the brew boils over, it's no surprise.
A gang of cops clubbed poor Rodney King, a decent Los Angeles citizen, "motorist Rodney King," drunk as a skunk, foot on the gas pedal, taking the cops on a car chase.
The police, of course, just did their duty, beating the guy to a pulp.
And so the trial, the riots, the drama of frustration and outrage. It's your standard B-grade Los Angeles movie, staged by Maya, screenplay by the modes of nature, a cast of thousands acting out their scripted parts, directed by lust, anger, and greed.
From close up, it all looks real. Seen from a distance, it's just another episode in Kali-yuga illusion.
Those who call Los Angeles home might be miffed at our dismissing things so easily. "Call everything illusion and forget about it." Is that Krsna consciousness—just to trivialize big problems and write them off?
Such protests ignore what the biggest problem is: No matter who we are or what we are, whatever we put together for ourselves in this material world will sooner or later go up in smoke. Better to move out of Los Angeles—or whatever other crummy, death-ridden place we call home—and go back to our real home, back to Godhead.
Under the headline "Thirst for Krsna" [BTG, March/April] someone from Briggs, California, expressed his or her disappointment that BTG dealt at length not with Krsna directly but with "ISKCON's dilemmas." Jayadvaita Swami, the editor of BTG, agreed the main focus should be Krsna's forms, qualities, etc., and he promised to take the point to heart. This brings up the most important question a magazine could ask itself, namely the question of its purpose.
The "old BTG" dealt with "Krsna" more or less exclusively. If the institution ISKCON was dealt with, only the more or less important successes were mentioned. It's no wonder this policy was rewarded with diminishing interest, even from the ISKCON devotees themselves. To change this was only intelligent.
But besides this pragmatic point there is a philosophical reason why BTG should deal with "ISKCON's dilemmas." The reason is that these are not ISKCON's dilemmas but the dilemmas that occur when a person tries to act as a devotee of Lord Krsna in the world we live in.
To view these dilemmas only as those of an institution is false. I am not convinced that only the institution ISKCON has these problems. Rather, my experience is that these are problems any person may face when trying to lead a spiritual life.
For instance, the problem of falldown from spiritual life is surely not limited to ISKCON or even to Krsna's devotees. It's a problem that exists on every spiritual path.
Another problem—how to manage a spiritual society in a purely spiritual way—is only too well known to other religions and spiritual societies.
What does Krsna consciousness mean in my day-to-day affairs? How should I as Krsna's devotee behave in certain circumstances? What should be the relationship between the spiritual institution and the individual on the spiritual path? These are all fundamental and essential questions that come up automatically when one tries to practice Krsna consciousness and tries to spread it around. Not everyone may have to or want to deal with these topics, but the whole of ISKCON cannot avoid dealing with them.
Bringing up such issues in public helps readers become aware of the problems they may have to face (or are facing?) in their own environment. It gives principles for dealing with these problems in a Krsna conscious way. And so it helps readers grow and mature in their spiritual practice.
Otherwise, BTG would tell its readers to become devotees but then abandon them when they try to do so. This would be irresponsible.
Just a note to compliment you on your magazine Back to Godhead. From beginning to end, it is thoroughly interesting. I especially enjoyed "Through the Eyes of Sastra" in your May/June issue.
The articles about personal experiences are my favorites. But the whole magazine is of very high quality. Thank you for giving me some high-class reading.
Krsna at Work
I would like to thank Rohininandana Prabhu for his article on being Krsna conscious at work.
I'm living outside the temple but struggling to maintain the mode of goodness and go to the temple here regularly. So this article came right in time.
I was just hired as a secretary for a big company in Chicago, and I can be easily swayed to join in on mundane extracurricular activities. This article helped me strengthen my resolve to stay Krsna conscious despite all kinds of mundane influences at work.
Just wait until they see what kind of nice prasadam I'll be cooking for them at those office parties.
Bhakti Yoga Club
I am the faculty advisor for the Bhakti Yoga Club at Paint Branch High School which was started last year by a student, Angela Sankhla [cover story, May/June BTG]. This is one of the first philosophy-based clubs in this school. It has been going on very well so far this year.
I have greatly enjoyed all of the Bhakti Yoga Club's interesting activities, such as the discussions we have had on vegetarianism, about the Hindu culture, etc. In our latest meeting, we had the opportunity to try on ancient Indian costumes—saris and dhotis.
I am very impressed with Angela's hard work for organizing the meetings and sharing the Hindu philosophy and culture with us at Paint Branch.
Traveling to Vrndavana
I was deeply moved by Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami's article "Preparing for a Pilgrimage," in the March-April issue of Back to Godhead. The sentiments he expressed reminded me of those I had in preparing for my first trip to Vrindaban, in the fall of 1988. I remember feeling intensely anxious (and excited). I was traveling alone (two of my Godsisters were unable to go with me as planned), and I was going so far, to an unfamiliar continent and a spiritual place rich with Krsna's pastimes.
During my journey to and from India, I came to realize that Krsna was my constant companion; I was never really alone. He was present in my thoughts, in my chanting, in the form of others who assisted me with directions and information, and in the form of service to my beloved guru maharaja (Romapada Swami), who was also in Vrindaban at the time.
I realized that I didn't have to travel such a long distance to be with Krsna or feel close to Him. Our shelter—our home, as Satsvarupa Maharaja has so beautifully expressed—is not in a place but in one's consciousness of Krsna.
Hemalata Devi Dasi
Stop Bhakta Vic
In the name of everything that stands for decency, subtlety, grace, good taste, respect, honor, tact, humility, and all other sublime qualities, please, please stop giving us filth in the holy pages of Srila Prabhupada's Back to Godhead under the guise of "Straight Talk." (Any so-called straight talk devoid of modesty is all filth.)
The entire Jan/Feb 1992 issue of BTG was indelibly sullied (to use a mild, understated term) by Bhakta Vic 108's filthy presentation about his failed encounter with the sex-stained "Mr. Sex-Is-Great." Disgusting!
G. S. Senan
Keep Him Going
I would like to encourage and congratulate Bhakta Vic in his distribution of Krsna consciousness. And I would like to thank him for all his excellent articles in Back to Godhead. They are especially relevant in these troubled times, in which sinful activities are taken as normal and proper. I humbly beg the editors of Back to Godhead to keep Bhakta Vic a regular contributor to BTG.
I want to tell you how proud I am about your articles on Shelter and Bhakta Vic. They make the magazine so much more exciting, especially when you're a teenager of sixteen like me. I am a big fan of Shelter and am proud to see they are preaching the name of Krishna to many lost teenagers. My friends tease me all the time because I am the only teenager in Augusta, Georgia, who practices Krishna consciousness. But that's okay. I will still keep Krishna in the center of everything, thanks to bands like Shelter. All glories to Srila Prabhupada!
We welcome your letters. Send correspondence to The Editors, Back to Godhead, P.O. Box 90946, San Diego, CA 92169, USA.
August 22 marks ninety-six years since His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (right), Founder-Acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, appeared in this world. To honor this auspicious day, we've selected the following homage from this year's Vyasa Puja book, the annual collection of offerings to Srila Prabhupada from his temples and devotees.
Dearest Srila Prabhupada,
Please accept my most humble obeisances in the dust of your lotus feet. All glories to you on this most auspicious occasion of your appearance within this world!
Each year at this time I sit to reflect and compose my offering to you. Thoughts come, words flow, and I put them down on paper. But one page and one day alone seem inadequate to express my love; it will be more appropriate if I can offer my life to you.
Each year I come to appreciate more the gifts you have given me. As time passes, all that is familiar in this world gradually fades, yet Krsna consciousness remains fresh, and with it my hopes to attain your grace. Birth, death, old age, and disease are no longer unfamiliar; I see them the world over, wherever you send me to preach. With the realities of material life often present, I remember your words to us: "I have been everywhere and seen everything. My advice to you is to take sannyasa."
But I am unable to always see as you say. Though I repeatedly hear, I remain foolishly attached. Nevertheless, you kindly arrange to instruct me. This year when little Visakha broke her neck and lay in the hospital bed, she was informed she would never walk again. On the phone she told me, "Why should I lament? I'm spirit soul—this body is only a frame. Besides, one day I'll be back with Krsna again." I wonder at your grace that a child may have such realizations and instruct me in the same.
When I visited her for the first time after the accident, her face glowed and shined. "I've had many realizations," she said.
"But you're only twelve years old!" I thought.
Glancing over at your picture, she said, "I can understand that before the accident I was frivolous and wasn't making the best use of my time. Now I want to become serious and take shelter of Krsna." I prayed for the same.
In the rehabilitation ward, as the doctors struggled in vain to teach her to move, she collapsed like a rag doll on the mat. With pity and compassion they raised her up, only to be amazed at the smile on her face. "Everyone here is in the bodily concept of life," she said to me. "Therefore they can only lament." Such is your mercy that we might live in this world without regret.
As I took her in the wheelchair back to her room, we laughed at the foolishness of the materialists, who only hanker and lament. But I felt we were laughing at me, an older devotee with less realization than that of this child.
As we turned the corner, she looked up and said, "But we can save them if we preach." Her words were the purports I've read in your books, but her realizations were different than mine. What is this great mercy of yours that transcends even time!
That evening I brought my Deities at her request. She stared at them a long time, not casually, as I often do. With deep feeling she said, "I missed Them a lot." And I thought, "Why can't I?"
Srila Prabhupada, thank you for your instructions from the mouth of a child. I've had many realizations now. You know, "Before the accident I was frivolous and wasn't making the best use of my time. Now I want to become serious and take shelter of Krsna."
Your eternal servant,
A lecture by
Hamburg, September 4, 1969—Janmastami
visnu-saktih para prokta
"The potency of Lord Visnu is summarized in three categories, namely the spiritual potency, the living entities, and ignorance. The spiritual potency is full of knowledge; the living entities, although belonging to the spiritual potency, are subject to bewilderment; and the third energy, which is full of ignorance, is always visible in fruitive activities."
—Visnu Purana 6.7.62
IT IS STATED HERE, visnu-saktih para: "The energy of the Supreme Lord is spiritual." The energy and the energetic are nondifferent. Although the sunshine is the energy of the sun globe, the quality of sunshine and that of the sun globe are the same. The sunshine is bright, illuminating, hot. Similarly, we can understand, in the sun globe the temperature may be very high, but the quality is the same.
So visnu-saktih para prokta. God has one energy. And that energy is spiritual energy. The same energy is manifested in another form: ksetra-jna, or marginal energy, or the energy in which we living creatures are acting.
And anya means that besides these two energies—the spiritual energy and the marginal energy, the living entities—there is another energy, called avidya. Avidya means ignorance. In that energy one has to enjoy the fruit of his own labor. That is the nature of the material world. This material world is also an energy of Krsna, or God, but here ignorance prevails. Therefore one has to work. Practically one hasn't got to work, but because he is in ignorance he has to work.
So actually there is one energy, the spiritual energy. Krsna, or God, is the whole spirit, and the energy is emanating from Him. Like Krsna, that energy is also spiritual. Sakti-saktimatayor abhinna. In the Vedic language we understand that the saktiman, or the energetic, Krsna, and the energy are nondifferent. So this material energy is also nondifferent from Krsna.
In other words of Vedic language it is said, sarvam khalv idam brahma: "Everything is Brahman." In Bhagavad-gita also, Lord Krsna says, maya tatam idam sarvam. Sarvam means "all." Idam refers to this cosmic manifestation. Krsna says, "I am expanded as this cosmic manifestation, this impersonal feature of Myself." Maya tatam idam sarvam jagad avyakta-murtina. He then says, mat-sthani sarva-bhutani naham tesv avasthitah: "Everything is resting on Me, or everything is an expansion of Me. But I am not there."
This philosophy, known as acintya-bhedabheda, or simultaneously one and different, is our philosophy, inaugurated by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, although it is in the Vedanta-sutras.
Everything is simultaneously one with and different from the Supreme Lord. There are two classes of philosophers. One class says that God and the living entities are different, and the other says that God and the living entities are one. The acintya-bhedabheda philosophy adjusts this conflict by saying that God and the living creatures are simultaneously one and different. They are one in quality—just like the energy and the energetic, the sun globe and the sunshine. In sunshine there is heat, there is illumination, light. In the sun globe also there is heat, there is illumination, but the degrees are quite different. You can bear the heat and illumination of the sunshine, but you cannot go to the sun globe or bear the heat and temperature there. The scientists say that if some planet goes within so many millions of miles of the sun globe, it will immediately burn into ashes.
Similarly, God and our self, Krsna and the living entities, are qualitatively one, but quantitatively we are different. The living entities are minute, anu. We are smaller than the atom.
The Srimad-Bhagavatam says that it may be possible some day by scientific research to count how many atoms are within this cosmic manifestation. Still, it is not possible to know the Supreme Personality of Godhead by our ordinary sense perception. Atah sri-krsna-namadi na bhaved grahyam indriyaih. Krsna, or God, is not perceivable by our material senses. It is not possible. Namadi means "beginning from His name," because we try to understand Krsna beginning with the chanting of His holy name, Hare Krsna. Then, after chanting Hare Krsna, when our heart is purified, we can understand His form—sac-cid-ananda-vigrahah.
So either His name or His form or His quality or His paraphernalia or His activities—none of these can be understood by our material senses. It is not possible. Then how it is understood? Sevonmukhe hi jihvadau svayam eva sphuraty adah. When we take to the transcendental loving service of the Lord, the Lord reveals Himself. We cannot understand Him on our own, but He reveals Himself.
Therefore, sevonmukhe hi jihvadau. Jihva means the tongue. Our first business is to engage our tongue in the service of the Lord. How? By chanting and glorifying His name, fame, qualities, form, paraphernalia, pastimes. This is the business of the tongue. Sevonmukhe hi jihvadau. When the tongue is engaged, gradually all other senses are also engaged in the service of the Lord.
The tongue is the most important sense within our body. Therefore for controlling our senses it is recommended that one should first of all control the tongue. Sri Bhaktivinoda Thakura sings, tara madhye jihva ati, lobhamoy sudur-mati. Our present conditional state is like this, sarira avidya jal. We are packed up in the network of this material body. Like a fish caught within a net, we are caught up by the network of this material body.
Not only this body—we are changing nets in various phases of life. There are 8,400,000 forms of bodily networks. These are networks of ignorance. Avidya jal. Avidya means "ignorance." Sarira avidya jal, jadendriya tahe kal. Our imprisonment within these networks of ignorance is being continued because of the dangerous senses.
Out of these dangerous senses, Bhaktivinoda Thakura says, the tongue is the most dangerous. If I cannot control the tongue, the tongue will oblige me to take different types of body one after another. If I am very much fond of satisfying my tongue by flesh and blood, material nature will give me facility to taste fresh flesh and blood by giving me the body of a tiger. If I do not discriminate in eating, material nature will give me the body of a hog, and I will have to accept stool as my food.
We are materially suffering and enjoying according to this body. Therefore the human body is a great opportunity because God realization can begin simply by engaging the tongue. Sevonmukhe hi jihvadau. By engaging the tongue in the loving service of the Lord one can make advancement in Krsna consciousness.
So this human form of life is a great boon to the living entity who is traveling through the cycle of birth and death, perpetually changing different sorts of body. Here is the opportunity, the human form of body. We can utilize the tongue properly and get out of these clutches.
Sevonmukhe hi jihvadau. Seva means "service," and jihva adau, "beginning from the tongue." We should keep our tongue engaged always in chanting the Hare Krsna mantra, because Krsna the sound is not different from Krsna Himself. Krsna is absolute. Nothing is different from Him. Krsna and Krsna's name are not different. In the material sense, everything is different. I myself am different from this body. I am not this body. But Krsna is not like that. Krsna and Krsna's body are the same. Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita,
avajananti mam mudha
"Rascals and fools deride Me because I appear as a human being. They are thinking I am an ordinary human being. These rascals do not know My influence and what I am." Param bhavam ajananto: "They do not know My nature. Without knowing Me, they consider, 'Krsna is an ordinary human being.' "
Avajananti mam mudhah. This very word has been used: mudha. Mudha means "rascals." But in spite of this warning, there are so many rascals passing as big scholars. When Krsna orders, "You surrender unto Me," the rascals comment, "It is not to Krsna but to the unborn spirit within Krsna." They are monists. They are philosophizing oneness. But as soon as they come to Krsna they divide: "Krsna is different from His body." They do not know that Krsna is not different from His body, Krsna is not different from His name, Krsna is not different from His fame—anything pertaining to Krsna is Krsna.
Krsna's name and Krsna are not different. Therefore, as soon as my tongue touches the holy name of Krsna it associates with Krsna. If you constantly keep yourself associated with Krsna by chanting this mantra, Hare Krsna, then you are easily being purified simply by this process of chanting.
Engage the tongue in chanting. And your tongue wants palatable dishes to taste, so Krsna is very kind. He has given you hundreds and thousands of palatable dishes, remnants of food eaten by Him. You can eat these remnants. In this way, if you simply make it a determination that "I shall not allow my tongue to taste anything not offered to Krsna, and I shall engage my tongue always chanting Hare Krsna," all perfection is within your hold.
Two simple things: Chant Hare Krsna and don't eat anything not offered to Krsna. That's all. Our Krsna prasadam is so variegated. "Variety is the mother of enjoyment." How much enjoyment do you want from your tongue? You can have it simply by eating Krsna prasadam. And the more your tongue is purified, the more you relish the chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra.
Anandambudhi-vardhanam. Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu states that the chanting increases the ocean of transcendental bliss. The ordinary ocean does not increase. We have no experience of the ocean increasing. If the ocean were able to increase, then all the lands would have been swallowed up long, long ago. The ocean does not increase. But this ocean—the ocean of transcendental bliss—is increasing.
Some of you must have experienced it, those who are actually relishing. Rupa Gosvami, a great authority in Krsna consciousness, says, "What shall I chant with one tongue? If I would have millions of tongues I could chant a little more. And what shall I hear with two ears?" He's aspiring to have millions of ears and trillions of tongues to relish chanting Hare Krsna. So that is another stage, of course, when this chanting will be so melodious that we shall try to have more ears and more tongues to appreciate it.
Atah sri-krsna-namadi na bhaved grahyam indriyaih. By our present senses we cannot understand Krsna, or God, His name, His form, His quality. Therefore if we immediately try to understand Krsna by His pictures—"Oh, Krsna is embracing Radharani and the gopis"—we shall be mistaken. Because unless our senses are purified, we shall accept Krsna and Radharani as an ordinary young boy or girl. But actually They are not. Their dealings are pure.
In the Caitanya-caritamrta, Krsnadasa Kaviraja has distinguished that there is a gulf of difference between the loving affairs of the gopis with Krsna and the ordinary, lustful dealings of human beings. He compares the gopis' love of Krsna to gold, and our so-called love in this world to iron. As there is a difference between gold and iron, there is a difference between the loving affairs of the gopis with Krsna and the mundane, lusty affairs between men and women or boys and girls. They are never equal.
Our present impure senses, contaminated senses, cannot understand Krsna. Therefore we should follow this principle: sevonmukhe hi jihvadau. First of all engage in chanting Hare Krsna. "Hare Krsna" refers to Radha and Krsna. Hara is Radha. But don't try to understand by the present senses. Simply chant Their holy names, Hare Krsna.
The dust on the mirror of your heart will be cleansed simply by chanting. Ceto-darpana-marjanam bhava-maha-davagni-nirvapanam. And there will be no more material condition. That is the next stage. If you chant the Hare Krsna mantra without offense, you are at once freed from all material anxieties. That is the test. How you are advancing in chanting will be tested by how far you are free from material anxieties.
Then real life begins. As long as you are perturbed by material disturbances, you should know that your spiritual life has not begun. This is confirmed everywhere in the scriptures. Brahma-bhutah prasannatma na socati na kanksati. Bhagavad-gita says that one who is Brahman realized is always joyful.
"Brahman realized" means that one understands, "I am not this body; I am pure spirit soul, eternal servitor of Krsna." Simply understanding "I am not this body; I am spirit soul" is not enough. That is not sufficient knowledge. Of course, that is good. That is just on the margin between matter and spirit. But you have to transcend this material existence completely and come to the platform of spiritual understanding. So for that purpose you have to go further, after Brahman realization.
Brahma-bhutah prasannatma. If you are actually Brahman realized, the symptom will be that you are always joyful. No anxiety. Why do we have anxiety? Everything is nicely discussed in the Srimad-Bhagavatam. Bhayam dvitiyabhinivesatah syat. When we forget Krsna and think there is something other than Krsna, we are afraid. And for those who are realized souls and are convinced that there is nothing but Krsna, where is the cause of fearfulness?
Therefore those who are pure devotees are not disturbed even in the most distressed condition of life. What do they think? They think, tat te 'nukampam: "My Lord, it is Your great mercy that You have put me into this distressed condition." In a distressed condition the devotees take it as an opportunity—"I have got a very nice opportunity to remember God constantly. Krsna, You are so kind that You have given me this distress."
So this Krsna consciousness is very nice. The Bhagavad-gita says that if one is situated in Krsna consciousness, even in a terrible situation, a fearful situation, he's not afraid. Just like Prahlada Maharaja, a five-year-old boy. His father tortured him like anything, but the boy was not afraid. This is the Krsna conscious state. The boy was not afraid even in such a tortured condition.
His father challenged him, "Prahlada, with whose strength are you so powerful that you do not fear me?"
Prahlada answered, "My dear father, by whose power are you talking like that?"
So in Krsna consciousness even if one is put into a terrible condition of distress he's not perturbed. Narayana parah sarve. There are many verses like that. We can quote hundreds. Narayana-parah sarve na kutascana bibhyati. If one becomes Krsna conscious, he's not afraid in any condition of life. Na kutascana bibhyati, svargapavarga-narakesv api. If he is put into hell or heaven or the spiritual world or any world, he's happy. Tulyartha-darsinah. He thinks everything is the same: "Either You put me in the hell or heaven or this or that, it is all the same."
Because he is always with Krsna, chanting Hare Krsna, Krsna is always with him. So where is the cause of being afraid—"Oh, that place is not good; this place is very good"? No. Wherever Krsna is, that place is very good.
So we have to practice and train the tongue very nicely. Engaged the tongue in the loving service of Krsna. It is very nice service. You simply chant and eat Krsna prasadam. Is it very difficult service? Everyone will accept, "Oh, yes." But unfortunately, everyone does not accept. [Chuckles.] You see? Caitanya Mahaprabhu therefore says, etadrsi tava krpa bhagavan mamapi: "My dear Lord, You are so kind that You have approached Me by transcendental sound." If I take, Krsna is always with me. If I reject, that is my ignorance.
"Krsna is everywhere" means that as soon as we accept Krsna He is with us, and as soon as we reject Him He is far, far away. So Krsna can be with us very easily when we simply chant or engage the tongue in His service.
Caitanya Mahaprabhu recommends this process. He inaugurated this process in the present age. Although the system is not new, He especially introduced it because His incarnation is to reclaim the fallen souls of this age.
Thank you very much.
Returning from Pilgrimage
by Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami
Recently I Left Vrndavana to return to the West. I was in Vrndavana for almost four months, and it wasn't until the end that I realized I had not entered as deeply into Vrndavana meditation as I could have. My underlying restlessness to go "home" was gradually replaced by an unwillingness to separate myself from the sweetness of the dhama, the holy land. Nevertheless, it was time to go.
Vrndavana holds a great treasure that only constant living in the dhama can fully reveal. But even four-month visits to the dhama can give enough of a glimpse of the treasure to entice us back.
I returned to the West filled with new Krsna conscious inspiration I hoped to share with the devotees here. In Vrndavana I was hearing about, glorifying, and remembering Krsna under ideal circumstances. I became convinced that Prabhupada is right—that hearing and chanting really are the most important things. I saw that we in the West have to simplify our lives and find time to learn how to love Krsna in the mood of Vrndavana.
The first time I spoke about this in an assembly of devotees, I experienced culture shock. It took me a few moments, but I realized that many devotees in the West have other concerns I hadn't taken into consideration. They have financial concerns, some are involved in the psychological search for self-esteem and peace, and others have gone on intellectual tangents peripheral to Krsna consciousness. I looked out at them, and they looked at me—culture shock.
There is a sharp contrast between Vrndavana and the West. Vrndavana means culturing a life conducive to using one's time in spiritual pursuits—hearing, chanting, visiting holy sites, and associating with devotees. Vrndavana means the place where Krsna's pastimes are enacted. The Gosvamis instruct us to live in Vrndavana, and they insist that even if we can't live there, we have to learn to keep Vrndavana in our hearts.
It seems that the real concern for many devotees in the West is economic: how to make a living in the world while retaining one's Krsna conscious practices? When I speak about culturing Vrndavana consciousness and hearing krsna-lila, some devotees look at me as if to say, "What does this have to do with our real lives?"
I have to face facts: devotees are struggling with all these things. So how can we recapture the precious jewel of Vrndavana meditation? Rupa Gosvami writes in The Nectar of Instruction (Text 8):
tan nama-rupa caritadi-sukirtananu-
"The essence of all advice is that one should utilize one's full time—twenty-four hours a day—in nicely chanting and remembering the Lord's divine name, transcendental form, qualities, and eternal pastimes, thereby gradually engaging one's tongue and mind. In this way, one should reside in Vraja [Goloka Vrndavana-dhama] and serve Krsna under the guidance of devotees. One should follow in the footsteps of the Lord's devotees, who are deeply attached to His devotional service." This is called upadesa-saram, the essence of all instructions. We are all meant to give our main attention, our best attention, to hearing and chanting about Krsna.
We need to address the attitude of thinking we have to spend so much time to maintain ourselves. It is not absolutely true. If we accept the main thrust of Prabhupada's preaching—that we must use this human form of life to achieve Krsna consciousness and that nothing else has lasting value—then we will understand our real priority. Prabhupada writes, "In the material world everyone is very active in earning more and more money and in increasing eating and sleeping and gratifying the senses; such is the mission of most people's lives. But these activities should be absent from the life of a devotee."
The desire to practice Krsna consciousness more fully, to find a way for more concentrated chanting and hearing, is called utkana, or expectation. Bhaktivinoda Thakura exemplifies the mood of a devotee who is experiencing this expectation in his song "Kabe Ha'be Bolo":
When, oh when, will that day be mine? When, my offenses ceasing, taste for the name increasing, when in my heart will Your mercy shine? When, oh when, will that day be mine?
The more we concentrate on how hard it is to struggle in the material world, the more the material energy will absorb our time and attention and divert our energy from Krsna consciousness. If we hear this and accept Prabhupada's teachings on this point, then we can ask, "How can I carry this out in my present circumstance?" Prabhupada is not teaching something unreasonable or unrealistic. He is trying to teach us to save our best time for Krsna.
But still we may be faced with so many economic realities. How can we carry out this instruction and increase our Vrndavana meditation? Perhaps we can't change our jobs or our home life, but we can adjust things even in our present situation. Hearing and chanting and developing love of God have more to do with determination and firm resolution than any external circumstance. The early-morning hours are there for us wherever we are. They're the ideal time for concentrated chanting. But if we simply wake up, chant a few hurried rounds, and rush off into our day, we will come to hate those rounds and hate chanting. Such rounds will be meaningless. Rupa Gosvami says that concentrated, devotional chanting gives us a taste to hear about Krsna. Therefore all the acaryas recommend giving the best time of the day to chanting with care and devotion.
Chanting Hare Krsna means to call on Radha and Krsna. Mechanical chanting is impersonal; we have to become aware that we are calling on the Lord and His consort to engage us in Their service. And chanting will be even more effective if we also hear Krsna's pastimes and instructions as given in the scriptures.
Sometimes devotees say that if they just work hard for the ISKCON mission, Lord Caitanya will come to them at the time of death and take them back to Godhead. Prabhupada made a statement like this. But some devotees cling to it as justification for not giving their best time to regulated spiritual practices. Still, when we analyze Prabhupada's books, we will see that his main teaching is that we have to develop a specific attraction to Krsna in a particular rasa, or relationship, before we can go and be with Krsna in the spiritual world. We cannot go to Krsna at the time of death if we have not developed any specific interest in Krsna during our lives. We cannot simply work hard for Krsna's mission without developing any real attraction to Krsna Himself. Prabhupada said we have to "become mad after Krsna."
We can only become mad after Krsna by culturing our desire to hear about his activities and by chanting His holy Name in love. That is what Prabhupada came to teach us, and that is what Vrndavana meditation means.
Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami is the author of more than two dozen books, including a six-volume biography of Srila Prabhupada.
Cooking Class: Lesson 3
India's Way with Legumes—A Healthy Protein Alternative
by Yamuna Devi
IT WAS ABOUT 10:30 in the morning when I arrived at Sadhu Kutir, Srila Prabhupada's quarters. The two stone rooms, connected by a veranda, were perched on a knoll overlooking a panorama of craggy hills, a pomegranate orchard, a small lake, and a field. This idyllic setting lay within the compound of the famed Sri Radha Govinda Temple in Jaipur, in the Indian state of Rajasthan. Srila Prabhupada was visiting the "Pink City" to attend ISKCON's first festival there, hosted by the queen of Jaipur, Srimati Gayatri Devi.
A clear February sky had made my shopping pleasant that morning, the fog of dawn dissipated by a warm winter sun. Laden with bags of kitchen supplies and mentally planning the lunch menu, I was less aware of the scenery than of the brazen long-tailed monkeys eager to snatch my goods.
Srila Prabhupada came into view only moments after I'd laid down my bags. Draped in a wool shawl, he was strolling to and fro on the veranda, quietly chanting on his beads. He called me over to observe a group of Rajasthani women preparing lunch in the open field. Pungent smoke from their cooking fire of margosa wood and cow dung wafted our way as a narrow-necked brass pot of dal (legume) soup simmered on a makeshift stove.
As the women worked on the noon meal, Srila Prabhupada commented on their ingenuity and expertise: They'd gathered wood; collected stones and built a small stove; set up a workable cooking area; and arranged an eating place. But more than anything, he extolled the virtues of the dal soup cooking on the fire. Dal—nutritious, versatile, and easy to prepare—is India's main source of protein, he told me. The innocent cow needn't be slaughtered to satisfy the demands of the tongue. Srila Prabhupada encouraged me to experiment with the goodness of this simple noon meal of dal, flame-toasted capatis, and perhaps a little yogurt and pickle. I started that very day, and the focus of his noon meal was the Vegetable-Dal Soup for which I give the recipe below.
Legumes, called dal in India, are members of the pulse family, plants that produce pods with edible seeds. These include dried beans, peas, and lentils. India yields the largest legume crop in the world, most of it consumed domestically. About a dozen varieties are widely used. If you're interested in exploring the classic treatment of Indian legumes, prepare three or four recipes for light soup, chunky potage, or thick stew from the Dal chapter in the class textbook, Lord Krishna's Cuisine. These recipes are not written in stone. You don't need to follow them exactly. Rather, use them to inspire your own creations with adjusted cooking times and seasonally available produce. I do recommend using seasonings such as turmeric, coriander, ginger root, cumin, and mustard seeds, not only for flavor but because according to Indian tradition they help with digestion and the assimilation of nutrients. The recipes that follow don't require a trip to an Indian grocery store; you'll find the ingredients in supermarkets and health food stores.
In the last few years, Americans have been eating a lot more legumes, largely through ethnic cuisines such as Indian, Mediterranean, French, Mexican, and Middle Eastern. Many people know that legumes are an outstanding source of low-fat protein, an excellent alternative to animal protein. And from the nutrition standpoint, legumes are rich in B-vitamins, iron, and potassium. They're packed with dietary fiber, are a good source of complex carbohydrates, and are easy on the waistline—a mere seventy calories for about a half-cup serving of cooked beans.
Split, husked mung dal, Srila Prabhupada's favorite, was used in the Jaipur version of this dish. It can also be made with Indian split toor or urad dal or yellow split peas.
1 cup split peas or dal
If you're using split peas, soak them in water for 2 hours; then drain. Sort through the dal and remove foreign matter; then rinse in several changes of water. Place the split peas or dal, water, turmeric, and vegetables in a heavy-bottomed casserole and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, partially cover, and boil gently for 45 to 90 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the legumes are fully tender and creamy. Remove from the heat and blend in a food processor, or hand whisk until the texture is creamy.
Heat the ghee or oil in a small pan over moderate heat. Add the chilies, ginger, cumin, and fennel and toast until the spice seeds turn deep brown. Pour the seasoning into the soup, add the cilantro and lemon juice, and season with salt and pepper.
Whole Mung Beans With Spinach And Tomatoes
An alternative to chili—thick, robust, and hearty. For added texture, towards the last 20 minutes of cooking you might want to add to the bean pot 1/2 cup pan-sauteed crushed mung vadi, diced homemade panir cheese, or diced tofu.
1 cups whole mung beans
Soak the mung beans in 4 cups of water for 2 hours. Drain and place in a heavy-bottomed saucepan with 6 cups of fresh water, the turmeric, the ginger, and half of the cilantro. Bring to a boil; then reduce the heat to low, partially cover, and simmer about 1 ½ hours until the beans are plump and tender.
While the beans are cooking, wash the spinach leaves and remove their stems. Place the leaves in a stack, roll them into a log, and slice finely into shreds. During the last 20 minutes of cooking the beans, add the spinach, tomatoes, and cayenne or chili powder and cook until the spinach is wilted and soft. Season with salt and pepper. Heat a small pan over moderately high heat. Add the mustard seeds, cover, and when they begin to pop, drop in the cumin seeds. Continue to toast the seeds until the cumin browns a few shades. Pour the spices into the beans, add the remaining herbs, and drizzle with part or all of the ghee or oil.
Yamuna Devi is the author of Lord Krishna's Cuisine: The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking and is a regular contributor to The Washington Post.
Paradoxes of Time and Space
by Sadaputa Dasa
IMAGINE THAT A MAN TRAVELS into outer space on a rocket at near the speed of light and then returns to earth. According to Einstein's theory of relativity, the man will find he has not aged as much as his identical twin brother who stayed home. Time will have passed more slowly on the rapidly moving rocket than on the slow-moving earth. This disparity in the passage of time is often called time dilation.
This story of the twins is called the twin paradox, since it runs contrary to our expectations. Yet a simple diagram can easily show how it works.
The key to understanding the aging of the twins is Einstein's postulate that no matter how fast a person is traveling, if he measures the speed of a beam of light it will always be the same. In principle, then, we could make a clock by having a beam of light bounce back and forth between two mirrors mounted in frames at a fixed distance from one another. Since light always goes at the same speed, the time a pulse of light takes to make one complete bounce from one mirror to the other and back will always be the same. So we can measure the passage of time by counting complete bounces.
In the graph, distance is plotted on the horizontal axis and the passage of time on the vertical. Two stationary mirrors leave parallel vertical lines as time passes. A pulse of light bouncing back and forth between the two mirrors leaves a zig-zag path, and in this diagram we can count 10 complete bounces.
The pair of lines moving right and then left in a V-shape represents the movement of a pair of mirrors that travel first to the right and then to the left. The zig-zag line between these two V-shaped lines represents the path of a light pulse bouncing between the two moving mirrors. We can count nearly 7 complete bounces in this case. This means that while an observer standing next to the stationary mirrors experiences that 10 units of time have passed, an observer traveling with the moving mirrors experiences only 7 units of time.
This shows how the twin paradox works. The striking thing about it is that even though the zigs and zags of the light trapped between the moving mirrors seem unequal, an observer moving with the mirrors will see them to be the same. For this to be possible, both space and time on a moving object must transform in a strange way.
Note, by the way, that the horizontal spacing between the two moving mirrors is shown to be smaller than the spacing between the two stationary mirrors. This is an example of how space transforms with motion. According to Einstein's theory, a moving object will shrink in length by a certain percentage along its line of motion.
Apart from time dilation caused by motion, Einstein also discussed time dilation caused by gravitation. Imagine a beam of light moving up from the surface of the earth. According to the laws of physics, the light must lose energy as it climbs against the pull of gravity. The frequency of a beam of light is proportional to its energy. So as the light climbs upward, its frequency drops.
Now suppose the light is coming from the face of a clock situated on the earth's surface, and that a person in outer space is using this light to see the clock. A person on earth can observe that for every second ticked off by the clock, the light will vibrate through a certain number of cycles. The person observing the clock from outer space will also see that the light vibrates through this many cycles in the time the second hand ticks off one second.
For the observer in outer space, however, the light has a lower frequency than on earth. So he'll see the earth clock running slower than his own clock. Relative to the observer in space, time on earth must be passing more slowly. Calculations show that for a person in outer space, time on the earth's surface would seem to pass only slightly more slowly. But time on a planet with an extremely strong gravitational field would pass very slowly indeed.
According to the theory of relativity, an object with a strong enough gravitational field will be surrounded by an imaginary sphere called the event horizon. As Joe Smith, say at 1:00 P. M. by his own watch, approaches the object in his space ship and passes the event horizon, he won't notice anything unusual. But to an observer watching from a distance, as Joe approaches the event horizon, he will seem to slow down. He will never quite get there, and his watch will never quite reach 1:00 P. M. As the light coming from Joe grows to longer and longer wavelengths, Joe will fade out and gradually become invisible. Objects with such event horizons are known as black holes.
These examples show that modern physics allows for remarkable transformations of space and time. And apparently, similar ideas are found in Vedic literature.
We find an example in the story of a king named Kakudmi, who was able to travel to the world of Brahma and experience Brahma's scale of time. Here is the story, as related in the Srimad-Bhagavatam:
Taking his own daughter, Revati, Kakudmi went to Lord Brahma in Brahmaloka, which is transcendental to the three modes of material nature, and inquired about a husband for her. When Kakudmi arrived there, Lord Brahma was engaged in hearing musical performances by the Gandharvas and had not a moment to talk with him. Therefore Kakudmi waited, and at the end of the musical performances he offered his obeisances to Lord Brahma and thus submitted his long-standing desire.
One catur-yuga lasts 4,320,000 years. With this information, we can estimate the rate of time dilation on Brahmaloka. If the concert given by the Gandharvas took about one hour in Brahma's time scale, then that hour must correspond to 27 times 4,320,000 earth years. It is interesting that this estimate closely matches one for time dilation in another story involving Brahma.
This is the story of the brahma-vimohana-lila, or the bewilderment of Brahma by Krsna. Several thousand years ago, Krsna descended to the earth as an avatara and was playing as a young cowherd boy, tending calves in the forest of Vrndavana (south of present-day New Delhi). To test Krsna's potency, Brahma used mystic power to steal Krsna's calves and cowherd boy friends and hide them in suspended animation in a secluded place. He then went away for a year of earthly time to see what would happen.
Krsna responded to Brahma's trick by expanding Himself into identical copies of the calves and boys. So, when Brahma returned, he saw Krsna playing with the boys and calves just as before. Brahma became bewildered. Checking the boys and calves he had hidden, he found they were indistinguishable from the ones playing with Krsna, and he couldn't understand how this was possible. Finally Krsna revealed to Brahma that these latter boys and calves were identical with Himself, and He allowed Brahma to have a direct vision of the spiritual world.
Now, it turns out that even though Brahma was absent for one earth year, on his time scale only a moment had passed. The Sanskrit word used here for a moment of time is truti. (Srimad-Bhagavatam 10.13.40) There are various definitions of a truti, but the Vedic astronomy text called the Surya-siddhanta defines a truti to be 1/33,750 of a second. ** (Sastrin, Bapu Deva, trans., 1860, Surya-siddhanta, Calcutta: Baptist Mission Press, reprinted in Bibliotheca Indica, New Series No. 1, Hindu Astronomy I, p. 2.) If we accept this figure, then one year on earth corresponds to 1/3,750 of a second in the time of Brahma.
As I pointed out, King Kakudmi's visit to Brahmaloka took 27 times 4,320,000 earth years. If we multiply this by 1/33,750 we find that in Brahma's time King Kakudmi's visit lasted 3,456 seconds, or just under an hour. This is consistent with the story that the king had to wait for a musical performance to finish before having a brief conversation with Lord Brahma.
Although the time dilation involved in visits to Brahmaloka is extreme, such large time dilations do arise in the theories of modern physics. For example, suppose that instead of crossing the event horizon of a black hole, Joe Smith simply came close to the event horizon and then went back out into space to rejoin the person observing his journey. If he had come close enough to the event horizon, he would find that although his trip seemed short to him, millions of years had passed, and the observer had died long ago.
It is curious that according to the Srimad-Bhagavatam the physical universe is surrounded by a shell, and Brahmaloka is located very close to that shell. The Bhagavatam gives the diameter of this shell as 500 million yojanas, which, using the standard figure of 8 miles per yojana, comes out to 4 billion miles.
This seems extremely small. In a purport in the Caitanya-caritamrta, however, Srila Prabhupada makes the following comment:
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, one of the greatest astrologers of his time, gives information from Siddhanta Siromani that this universe measures 18,712,069,200,000,000 x 8 miles. This is the circumference of this universe. According to some, this is only half the circumference. (Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya-lila 21.84)
Assuming that what is meant is circumference, the diameter of the universe should be 5,956,200,000 million yojanas, considerably bigger than 500 million.
What is the meaning of these apparently contradictory figures? I don't know for sure, but it's interesting to consider that transformations of space may take place as one approaches the shell of the universe. The time dilation stories involving Brahmaloka show that transformations of time take place as one approaches the shell, and in the theory of relativity space and time tend to change together.
In the Mahabharata Narada Muni gives Maharaja Yudhisthira a description of the assembly hall of Lord Brahma on Brahmaloka. He emphasizes that the structure of this hall is impossible to describe, and this seems consistent with the idea that space in Brahmaloka may undergo transformations incomprehensible from our earthly standpoint. Here is his description of Brahma's hall:
It is not possible to describe it as it really is, king of the people, for from instant to instant it has another indescribable appearance. I know neither its size nor its structure, Bharata, and never before have I seen such beauty. The hall is very comfortable, king, neither too cold nor too hot; when one enters it, one no longer is hungry, thirsty, or weary. It is as though it is made up of many different shapes, all very colorful and luminous. No pillars support it. It is eternal and knows of no decay. It is self-luminous beyond the moon and sun and the flame-crested fire. ** (van Buitenen, J. A. B., trans., 1975, The Mahabharata, Books 2 and 3, Chicago: The Univ. of Chicago Press, p. 51.)
If strange transformations of space do occur in the region of Brahmaloka, then it could be that different scales of distance may be appropriate for describing travel to that region.
Going beyond Brahmaloka, one comes to the shell of the universe, described in Vedic literature as a region of transition from the physical world to the spiritual world. Since the Bhagavatam regards space as we know it as a physical element (called akasa, or ether), the shell marks the end of distance measurements as we know them, even though the thickness of that shell is described in the Bhagavatam in terms of units of distance. This also suggests that different scales of distance and even different types of distance may be involved in Vedic cosmology.
The shell of the universe also marks the end of time as we know it. According to the Vedic literature, a liberated soul is able to cross the shell of the universe and enter the transcendental region of Vaikuntha, where material time does not exist. Compare this with the idea of Joe Smith's journey through the event horizon of a black hole. Just as Joe passes into a region that, for observers outside the event horizon, is beyond time, the liberated soul passes into a region beyond the time of the physical universe. So in a sense the shell of the universe described in the Bhagavatam might be compared to the event horizon of a black hole.
These comparisons between concepts from the Bhagavatam and concepts from modern physics are crude at best and should be regarded only as metaphors. But they do indicate that some of the strange features of the universe as described in the Vedic literature may be no more "far out" than some of the ideas in accepted theories of modern physics.
Sadaputa Dasa (Richard L. Thompson) earned his Ph.D. in mathematics from Cornell University. He is the author of several books, of which the most recent is Vedic Cosmography and Astronomy.
Mayapur Visions: Reorganizing the Gurukula
by Sri Rama Dasa
The ISKCON gurukula (school) in Mayapur, India, has had some problems in the last year. A reorganization is underway. So far, things are looking good.
THE MAYAPUR GURUKULA will be our most important school. Not that I think ISKCON's other schools are unimportant—it's just that no other community is likely to have Mayapur's facilities or potential for growth. No other gurukula will offer the same variety of meaningful career possibilities. No ISKCON project in our lifetime will possess the excitement of Mayapur as it develops into a true City of God.
I'm traveling to Mayapur to help make some changes in the school. It's unfortunate that there have been troubles, but problems give us an opportunity to improve. For me, working with the Mayapur gurukula is a chance to be involved in a project with tremendous impact on ISKCON education worldwide.
* * *
Things get off to an auspicious start. I share my flight from Delhi to Calcutta with Jayapataka Swami, one of the members of the GBC (ISKCON's governing body) and a longtime mainstay of the Mayapur project. After I slide into one of the empty seats at his side, we discuss his concerns for the school. When I return to my own seat, I discover my row companion is in charge of air traffic control for India's eighty-some airports. We discuss the possibility of air service to Mayapur, and I invite him to visit.
More good luck on the ground: As my luggage appears on the conveyor belt (speckled with white powder spewing from a broken container in my garment bag), I find I've arrived with Bhakta Henry from Washington, D.C. Henry is a friend of Bhakticaru Swami, who has sent a car to pick him up. Transportation problem solved! This is especially fortunate because Bhakticaru Swami has assumed responsibility for education in Mayapur. We'll be working together for the next five weeks.
We have a sumptuous feast at the house of Caitanya Dasa, one of Bhakticaru Swami's disciples. The feast is one of those Bengali affairs where if you take even a single bite of each preparation you're sure to over-eat. Then Bhakticaru Swami, Henry, and I take the four-hour torture-drive on the Calcutta-Mayapur "highway."
After a good night's rest, Bhakticaru Swami and I begin our work with the school. For five days we have almost back-to-back meetings, getting a good idea of the school's current operations and future needs. We talk to teachers, parents, Mayapur managers, more parents, more teachers. In one-to-one sessions with the staff, we discover a solid group of sincere and thoughtful devotees. Unfortunately, most lack the kind of educational experience we need right now.
We Forge Ahead
Our first big realization is that we need to divide the gurukula management into bite-sized chunks. Ideally, we should have separate supervisors for the asrama, for academics, and for general management. Unfortunately, we're only able to fill one of the spots: Krodhesvara Dasa, an experienced Prabhupada disciple from Australia, agrees to take charge of administration.
Second realization: There are no obvious candidates to fill the asrama and academic spots. Slowly we come to the inevitable conclusion that Bhakticaru Swami himself will have to take those jobs for the time being. Anyway, that he's ready to roll up his sleeves when required is a good sign. Gurukulas do better when the leaders aren't too aloof.
One fringe benefit of this job is taking my meals with Bhakticaru Swami. I never know what to expect at prasadam time. Breakfast is often a glass of bael juice lassi and a Bengali sweet; but once in a while he throws in some steaming upma or South Indian dosas for variety. He's one of the few sannyasis I know who often prepares his own meals. By his own admission, he is also the only ISKCON sannyasi who likes Chinese prasadam enough to cook it himself.
Our next step is to reorganize the asrama structure. Asrama teachers are responsible for everything in the student's life outside the academic classes—it's the toughest and the most important job. We follow a simple formula: one building, one teacher, one asrama. The previous arrangement was somewhat vague, with teachers overseeing multiple buildings and a more or less dysfunctional system of student monitors. We want to encourage a mood of comprehensive responsibility.
Another feature of the new structure is asrama focus. We are encouraging each teacher to develop an asrama mood, organizing the program around his own talents and interests. In the future we hope to have many teachers who will agree to take a few older boys and engage them meaningfully around the Mayapur project.
While we reorganize the asrama, we go through a few days of tension as the teachers wonder if we're turning their world upside down. As things turn out, transitions are pretty smooth. Bhakti-vidya-purna Swami, the former principal, seems reasonably satisfied with his new complement of fifteen boys preparing for the ISKCON bhakti-sastri exams.
Now it's time to let our students know what's going on. Krodhesvara Prabhu arranges a meeting with all the students. Another good sign: Bhakticaru Swami handles himself like a gurukula pro—explaining changes, involving students, and offering bribes of copious prasadam. Even though he's only been at this ten days, I'd swear he's been doing gurukula service for twenty years.
After a couple of weeks, work begins to slow down as the GBC men arrive and their annual meetings start. Bhakticaru Swami seems always preoccupied now, but we manage to sneak in a gurukula meeting here and there. I get pretty entangled in the GBC meetings also, even though I'm not a member. As head of several GBC committees, I have to put in a fair amount of time. Still, I think I have the best of both worlds: I can drop in on the meetings I'm interested in and cut out when things get boring. Bhaktarupa Dasa, the GBC secretary, thinks it's the other way around—the GBC men get my services when wanted, without having to listen to my comments through every discussion.
Now for the hard part—sprucing up the academics. First we must decide what standard our students should work toward. This tends to be a delicate issue. Srila Prabhupada discouraged a heavy academic effort, but the kids still need enough education to pursue a variety of possible services. We tentatively settle on training the kids to reach the American GED standard by age eighteen.
GED stands for General Equivalancy Degree. It's basically an alternative to a high school diploma. GED tests usually cover skills in language, math, and social studies. Just enough so our students "won't be known as fools," as Srila Prabhupada put it. No academic overkill—a nice balance.
It'll be good for students to have a clear goal. We've been hearing that some of them now feel a bit unsure of themselves, wondering whether or not they're really "educated."
Realization number three: We don't have enough teachers in the school to make the improvements we want. What to do? Make an alliance with the local parents, who seem to have a lot of teaching talent and experience. This is a somewhat unheard-of idea for the school here, but after a day or two everyone seems used to it.
In the afternoons we begin having curriculum meetings with parents and teachers. Some basic decisions are made, like schooling the boys and girls together for the first two years. This way we can teach all the kids with our limited number of teachers. A mood of cooperation is budding. But lack of a competent academic head severely limits us. Finding one becomes a high priority, but this trip we won't be able to do it.
* * *
As I look out from the porch of our residence building, my eyes and mind thoroughly enjoy Mayapur's beauty. Much has changed since my first visit in 1976, and I don't think I've ever seen it look so attractive. I want to remember this vision of small groups of buildings—like tiny villages—dotting the landscape of paddy fields and lush tropical trees. The intensive construction in the householder quarter is a sure sign of Mayapur's coming transformation into a full-fledged transcendental city. That will also be beautiful—but in a different way.
If the weather were as pleasant all year as it is now in the spring, I'd even consider moving here. Perhaps when I'm older I won't be so attached to my comforts. Anyway, year by year it's getting easier for Western bodies to live here.
For now, at least I can visit regularly. Bhakticaru Swami and I have agreed I'll come here twice a year. Through Bhakta Henry's generosity, I've already got my plane fare to return in October. Now, that's a first for me!
I'm looking forward to it. Mayapur's a great place to come and contemplate the next ten thousand years.
* * *
Some last minute mercy from Krsna: Yesterday, we found an academics director. We'll spend today together in Calcutta going over curriculum details. Now I leave, a completely satisfied man. Krsna put everything together so nicely. Surely this means He wants the school to flourish.
Sri Rama Dasa is Chairman of the ISKCON Board of Education. Send correspondence to 3764 Watseka Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90034.
"Karma Kills Compassion"
by Bhakta Vic 108
DRY WIND SCRAPES over the dead land. Young boys cry, flies on their mouths, air in their bellies. Famine. Drought.
Hopeless reality for millions of human beings.
I can just see those Krishnas now, smugly sitting back, "Karma this, karma that." (Karma, you know: "Everything happens because of destiny, blah, blah, blah.") Believing in karma is crazy. It makes you a compassionless robot who doesn't care about the problems of here and now.
Karma, in fact, means: "Every action has a reaction." For example, if I act like a jerk I'll get a reaction—I'll turn people off. Or if as an infant I burned my hand on the stove, even once I've forgotten about it I may still have the reaction—a lifelong fear of hot things.
Whatever mess I find myself in today results from what I've done in the past. For some, this is hard to accept. It means I'm fully responsible for my own life. No scapegoats, no one to blame, just me. And other people are also responsible for their own lives. They bring about their own suffering and enjoyment.
So are people in Ethiopia suffering because of their own acts, their own karma? That seems like an awfully cold way to look at things. If it's their karma, why try to help them? They're just getting what they deserve.
So do we go around sneering and pointing at old men in wheelchairs—"Hey, you deserve it, buddy"? Of course not.
He doesn't deserve it. Yes, karma gives what he deserves—but he doesn't deserve karma in the first place. The soul in its natural state is free from all karma. So people don't deserve to suffer. Anyone who understands this becomes truly sympathetic and never tires of helping others get free from suffering.
Most people only feel compassion for certain special others—the retarded, the homeless, the hungry. But a person who fully understands karma feels compassion for everyone. Everyone's got karma, so everyone suffers, sooner or later. That's why compassion and kindness should go out to everyone.
Understanding karma doesn't stop one from feeling compassion or the urge to help the world. In fact, it extends and magnifies that compassion so it embraces all living beings.
Bhakta Vic 108 joined the Hare Krsna movement about two years ago. He and his band (called 108) are based at ISKCON's Washington, D.C., temple.
Bhakti-yoga at Home
Tilaka: The Mark of God
By Rohininandana Dasa
ANYONE WHO WISHES TO acknowledge the simple truth that "I am Lord Krsna's servant" can wear tilaka, the clay mark devotees wear on the forehead and other places on their body. You may not feel you have much devotion to Krsna, but you're not prohibited from wearing tilaka, because it's a sign that you're trying to be His devotee. What's more, the qualifications for being Krsna's devotee soon develop in a person who learns the art of wearing tilaka.
Why Decorate the Body?
A devotee of Krsna decorates the body because it's a temple of God. Instead of decorating our body as if it were the self, or destroying it, or despising it for its filthy emissions, we can respect and care for it as a residence of the Supreme Lord. The soul lives within the body, and so too does the Supersoul, the Lord. As a house is built and maintained for the pleasure of its owner, so "our" body is meant for the pleasure of its real owner, Lord Krsna. Decorating the body with tilaka pleases Him.
Putting on tilaka helps remind us we belong to Krsna. And when others see a person wearing tilaka they are not only reminded of Krsna but relieved of sinful reactions.
When we wear tilaka on our bodies, the Lord protects us from all sides. When Srila Prabhupada gave a disciple the name Tilaka Dasi, he told her that Tilaka meant "victory personified."
When to Wear Tilaka
Although you can put on tilaka anytime, the best time to apply it is after bathing or showering. Wearing tilaka is especially appropriate during your puja, or worship, at home. When you're worshiping as a family, everyone can wear it, or at least the person offering arati (the pujari). You can also wear tilaka when you visit the temple or attend festivals like Rathayatra.
An important time to wear it is at death. Either before someone dies or just afterwards, if you apply tilaka at least to the person's forehead, he or she will obtain eternal benefit. Of course, death can come anytime, and so it's wise to wear tilaka always.
You may feel shy about wearing tilaka publicly, but don't jump to conclusions about what others may think. They may be intrigued. Srila Prabhupada told a story about a factory in India where most of the Hindu workers were accustomed to wearing tilaka. When their new boss, a Muslim, told them that whoever kept wearing tilaka would lose his job, the next day everyone except one man came to work with forehead blank. So then the owner called a meeting and announced that from then on this one brave man would be the only person allowed to keep wearing tilaka.
Different Types of Tilaka
If you travel in India you'll see a variety of marks adorning people's foreheads and bodies. Such marks indicate their affiliation with a particular group and their devotion to a certain form of God or demigod. Broadly speaking, you will see two types of tilaka: the vertical mark of the Vaisnavas, or devotees of Krsna and His incarnations, and the three horizontal lines of the Saivites, followers of Siva and adherents to the impersonal conception of God.
Among the Vaisnavas are many sub-groups, identifiable by their styles of tilaka—it's shape and color and the type of material used to make it. The tilaka worn by devotees in the Hare Krsna movement indicates that we are in the disciplic line from Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu. The upper part of this tilaka, shaped like the prongs of a tuning-fork, represents Lord Krsna's footprint, and the leaf-shaped part on the nose represents a leaf of the tulasi, Krsna's favorite plant. The two lines also represent the walls of a Radha-Krsna temple, and so the space between the lines is Radha and Krsna's abode. For other Vaisnavas the two lines may indicate Brahma and Siva, and the space between the abode of Visnu. A red line in the center may represent Laksmi, Lord Visnu's eternal consort. The two lines may also indicate the banks of the Yamuna. Or they may represent Lord Rama and Laksmana standing on either side of Sita. The stroke at the base of the tilaka represents the devotee Hanuman knealing at Their feet. Tilaka styles are as varied as the understandings behind them.
How to Make Tilaka
ISKCON devotees generally make their tilaka from a cream-colored clay called gopi-candana, obtained from a sacred lake near Dvaraka, Lord Krsna's ancient city on the west coast of Gujarat. Krsna's greatest devotees, the gopis, once visited this lake. You can most likely obtain some from your local temple or supplier of devotional items. If not, clay from Vrndavana or any other holy place is fine. You can even use potters' clay. According to the Hari-bhakti-vilasa, a book by Srila Sanatana Gosvami on Vaisnava practices, any kind of earth may be used for tilaka, especially earth from a riverbank or from beneath a tulasi bush.
Put a little water in the palm of your left hand and move your block or ball of tilaka clay briskly until you get a smooth paste. As you do this, chant Hare Krsna, or if you like you can recite a mantra from the Padma Purana. You can find this mantra in a purport in the Caitanya-caritamrta (Madhya 20.202).
How to Apply Tilaka
Apply tilaka with the ring finger of your right hand. Make a mark—about as wide as the space between your eyebrows—from the root of your nose to your hairline. Now use another finger, perhaps the little one, to make a clear space in the middle to form two vertical lines. If these lines come out crooked, you can straighten them with a third finger. If your forehead is bumpy, like mine, you can develop your own way of applying the clay. Now make the leaf-shaped mark, which should extend from the base of the lines to about three quarters of the way down the nose.
After marking your forehead, apply tilaka to eleven other places on your body, as shown on the facing page.
As you apply the tilaka, recite the appropriate names of Visnu listed here. Om kesavaya namah means "O my Lord Kesava, I offer my respectful obeisances unto You." So as we mark our bodies, we chant twelve of His holy names.
If you can't find the clay to make tilaka (or if your wearing tilaka wouldn't sit well with your boss), you can go through the same procedure using only water. Use water that has bathed the Deity or pure water you've sanctified by chanting Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. By chanting the names of the Lord and applying the invisible representation of His temple, you'll be protected and spiritually inspired for a Krsna conscious day.
For more about tilaka, see The Nectar of Devotion, pages 54 and 73-74.
Rohininandana Dasa lives in southern England with his wife and their three children. Write to him at Woodgate Cottage, Beckley Nr. Rye, E Sussex TN31 6UH, U.K.
The Farmer and the Land
by Hare Krsna Devi Dasi
IN THE PAST SEVERAL COLUMNS I've described the evolution of a world economic system in which cow slaughter plays a central role. Now I want to contrast that system with Krsna's varnasrama model of society as presented by Srila Prabhupada. In the next several columns I'll compare how the two systems define the relationship between farmers and the land, farmers and the cows, and finally farmers and the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Let me first talk about the farmer and the land.
Independence for the Farmer
In the last several hundred years of Western history, government leaders have usually held to policies that discouraged subsistence farming. According to economic historian N. J. G. Pound, beginning in the medieval period the farmer was typically a serf who had to pay the village lord a head tax, a hearth tax, mill tolls, and rent. The lord often demanded burdensome and unpredictable services that disrupted the farmer's work. The farmer had little independence.
If the introduction of horses to agriculture put the farmer and his ox out of work, the farmer was probably glad to move to town to get a job as a laborer or craftsman. At a time when farmers were "bound to the soil, subjected to service obligations, made to perform day-works and boon-works," Pound writes, "the citizen of the town was free." ** (N. J. G. Pound, An Economic History of Medieval Europe (Longman Grout Ltd., 1974), pp. 210, 225.)
This is the opposite of the varnasrama system, in which the farmer independently contributes to society. The vaisya, or farmer, can produce his own food and needs no one else to maintain him.
Furthermore, in the varnasrama system the farmer doesn't pay rent on his land. Srila Prabhupada explains that the ksatriyas, the governing class, "distribute land on nominal taxation, and the vaisyas utilize the land for cultivation and cow-keeping." ** (Conversations with Srila Prabhupada (CSP), Volume 19, p. 301 (April 9, 1976).)
In a bad year for crops, medieval serfs would sometimes starve or lose their land because their rent and taxes were assessed at a fixed sum. The same is still true for small farmers around the world. But in the varnasrama system there was no rent, and the farmer's taxes were tied to production. The farmer would give the government one fourth of what he produced, and that would be all. No further taxes. No mortgage. And because the farmer could pay in kind rather than money, he wouldn't have to worry about market demand or grain prices. The farmer and his land were secure.
In a market-based economy, efficient commercial farmers flood the market, so small farmers get less for their crops. And commercial farmers push up land values, driving nearby subsistence farmers off the land and out of work. So farming solely for profit in the marketplace brings wealth and sense gratification for some, misery and desperation for others.
Farming for profit in a market economy calls for boosting output with machines. But machines bring unemployment, both for men and for animals. When the tractor puts the plowman and the bull out of work, the plowman winds up at the unemployment office, and the bull ends up at the slaughterhouse. ** (See also CSP, Volume 37, p. 230 (February 12, 1976).)
In the varnasrama system, therefore, the farmer is cautioned against growing mainly for the market. Instead, he is advised to work for self-sufficiency. ** (See also CSP, Volume 28, p. 241 (January 3, 1977).) By caring for cows and growing his own grain, he can feed himself and his family, and if he has more milk and grains than he needs he can trade to get other things.
Although varnasrama makes for socially just economics, that's not its most important feature. Its true function is to bring people closer to the Supreme Lord by their daily work.
By Krsna's arrangement, simple farming helps evoke one's natural appreciation for the Lord. The New York Times recently quoted this statement from Clemente Torres, a Mexican farmer: "As long as I have faith in God, I think I would not sell my land. It has always given me something to eat." ** (Tim Golden, "The Dream of Land Dies Hard in Mexico," The New York Times, Nov. 27, 1991, pp. A1, A10.) The farmer, especially the small farmer, naturally feels dependent on God to grow his crops, and when the crops come up he is naturally thankful to the Lord.
The varnasrama system is designed to take this natural religious sentiment and gradually elevate it to the highest realized love of Krsna. That's why the varnasrama system carefully protects the small farmer. The economic strength and stability of the whole society depends on the strength and happiness of the farmer. And the farmer can be happy and spiritually strong by working his land.
Hare Krsna Devi Dasi has been in ISKCON since 1978. She spent several years on the Gita Nagari farm in Pennsylvania. She now lives in Maine, where you can write to her c/o The Ox Power Alternative Energy Club, 9B Stetson St., Brunswick, ME 04011.
Despite the best attempts of the United Nations, conflicts will
by Drutakarma Dasa
AUTUMN, 1971. I was twenty-three years old and hitchhiking south through Yugoslavia. Beneath pines on a Dalmatian coastal hillside, I unrolled my sleeping bag on a bed of fragrant brown needles. The air was warm, still, and dry, and a nearly full moon waited at the end of a shining rippled path on the wide, dark Adriatic.
In the sunny morning, I entered the medieval port city of Dubrovnik for a breakfast of bread, fruit, and yogurt. Old stone forts and walls stood everywhere, but war seemed a long way from the holiday seacoast of Yugoslavia. The place of violence then was Southeast Asia.
Twenty years later, in San Diego, California, I see on television the explosions of shells and bombs amid orange-tiled southern European roofs, spraying shrapnel along the cobbled Dubrovnik streets I had walked as a young man on my way to the East.
And I remember things Nick told me in the dorm at George Washington University in 1966. Nick was Serbian, his father a deceased CIA officer. He lived with his mother and younger brother in a Maryland suburb and worked summers at the Agency.
Nick told me about the Ustashi, the Croatians who had worked with the Germans during the Second World War and massacred Serbs. I later learned the Croatians had their own atrocity stories about the Serbs.
Although I saw nothing of that tension in 1971, today on television I see, yes, some of these people really hate each other. They love their own people, but that love includes—has to include, it seems—hatred for others.
Now the United Nations is trying to monitor a truce between newly independent Croatia and what's left of Serbia-dominated Yugoslavia. Will the blue-bereted observers succeed in their mission? It's hard to tell.
The end of the Cold War, with its decades of noble superpower brinksmanship, has not brought peace. Instead, the world has entered a messy new era of nationalistic conflict.
In the United States this shows up in resentment toward the economic success of Japan. Americans smash Toyotas and Nissans with sledgehammers. The Japanese return the favor by calling American business executives over-paid and American workers lazy and uneducated.
In Europe old rivalries have flared into violence, as in Yugoslavia and the republics of the former Soviet Union. In India several regions are demanding independence or autonomy, and war threatens with Pakistan over Kashmir.
In the Middle East, in the confused, slow-moving aftermath of the lightning-swift Gulf War, beneath the talk of regional peace lie the causes of war. And the well-equipped armies of Israel and its Arab neighbors stand ready, as always, for more bloodshed.
Failed Attempts at World Peace
This century has seen two major attempts at international peacekeeping. In the aftermath of World War I came the League of Nations. The onset of World War II marked the end of the League, but in 1945 the United Nations was created to take its place.
Around this time, Srila Prabhupada wrote in Back to Godhead, "Leaders of world politics such as Mr. Churchill have nowadays begun to think of ... trying to get rid of the terrible national frenzy of hate. The frenzy of hatred is another side of the frenzy of love. The frenzy of love of Hitler's own countrymen has produced the concomitant frenzy of hatred for others, and the present war is the result of such . . . love and hatred. So when we wish to get rid of the frenzy of hate, we must be prepared to get rid of the frenzy of so-called love."
Almost fifty years later, the frenzy of national love and hate is still with us. Srila Prabhupada once said, "They call themselves the United Nations, but actually they are becoming disunited more and more."
The U.N. has occasionally succeeded in negotiating peace agreements. For example, the U.N. mediated the talks that led to the end of the Iran-Iraq war of 1980-1988. But the movement toward peace came only after a bloody battlefield stalemate that killed millions and exhausted the resources of both sides.
The Disease of Nationalism
Modern civilization, despite its attempts at international cooperation under the banner of the U.N., is in fact still dominated by nationalism, which provides endless causes of conflict. In The Historical Evolution of Modern Nationalism, Carlton Hayes noted, "The Industrial Revolution, despite its cosmopolitan potentialities, has been largely nationalized in actual fact. Modern scholarship, despite its scientific claims and its ubiquitous nature, has been preponderantly enlisted in support of nationalism. Philosophies which in origin were not expressly nationalist and were sometimes definitely intended to be anti-nationalist ... have been copiously drawn upon and frequently distorted for nationalist purposes." These words, written in 1931, still hold true today.
For many people, the nation has become an object of almost religious veneration. In The Faces of Nationalism, historian Boyd Shafer wrote of the modern nationalist,
His nation had a lay priesthood—the high national secular ... who cared for and preached to citizens to inform them of their duties. His nation also had its ... defenders of the faith—the soldiers ... who went out to battle against the forces of evil, the devilish enemy nations. ... His nation had its constitution (holy book) and its laws (its moral commandments), which all citizens were obliged to obey. ... He paid his taxes (higher than medieval tithes). ...He took oaths (sacraments) saying he would be a good and faithful citizen (servant). He made pilgrimages to his capital and its famed buildings ... His heroes (saints and martyrs) were buried in solemn national cemeteries (Arlington).
What does the Vedic literature say about this holy nationalism? The Srimad-Bhagavatam is forthright: "Anyone who reveres his homeland is no better than a cow or an ass."
My neighbors in San Diego have dogs that bark loudly when strangers walk by their yards. And when a human being calls himself American, Russian, or Japanese and considers his home turf worth fighting and dying for, his consciousness, the Bhagavatam says, is at bottom no better than that of an animal.
And to identify with one's race rather than one's nation is no better. The Srimad-Bhagavatam says that a person who sees the body as the self is also no better than a cow or an ass.
That brings us to a basic difference between a human being and an animal. A human being can understand that the self, at the most fundamental level, is beyond all bodily and mental labels, such as those of nationalism. An animal cannot understand this. Of course, even French poodles and German shephards are free from nationalistic feelings, but they do identify heavily as dogs of a particular neighborhood.
Nationalism provides a similar form of mental conditioning. It supplies an external, variable label to stick on the self, often to be replaced later by another.
That leads to a question. What is the self like when free from all such labels? In its original state, the self is characterized by pure individual consciousness.
According to the Bhagavad-gita, this individual consciousness results from the presence within the material body of a spiritual particle, the atma, or real self. "As the sun alone illuminates all this universe," states the Gita (13.34), "so does the living entity, one within the body, illuminate the entire body by consciousness."
Modern science argues that consciousness is produced not by the soul but by the body, specifically by neurochemical processes in the brain. But scientists have never been able to produce consciousness with chemicals. On the other hand, there is scientific evidence, in the form of out-of-body experiences and past-life memories, that individual consciousness can and does exist apart from the physical mechanism of the body.
The individual conscious particles, when seen distinct from physical bodies and external national labels, are equal. But spiritual equality does not in itself remove the root cause of conflict. Equals can also disagree and fight with one another.
But natural harmony among eternal individual conscious entities arises when they understand they have something in common apart from their similar nature, namely their common ultimate source and their ongoing relationship with this source and, through this source, with one another.
What is the source of the non-physical particles of consciousness that animate the bodies of all living things? The Vedic literature tells us they all come from one supremely conscious entity, just as sparks come from a fire. That supremely conscious entity, the source of all conscious and unconscious energies, is called Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
So when all the external mental and bodily identifications of the self are stripped away, each self stands revealed as a particle of consciousness simultaneously one with and different from the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
The soul is individual, and yet it is part of an organic whole, all the elements of which exist for the pleasure of Krsna. And it is this relationship of cooperative pleasure-giving, centered on Krsna, that harmonizes the interests of all the individual conscious particles, thus removing the cause of conflict.
Srila Prabhupada founded the International Society for Krishna Consciousness to allow people to live together for the purpose of transcending, among other things, the psychic limitations of nationalism. In this truly international society, members learn to cooperate as spirit souls with a common source of being in the Supreme Soul, Krsna.
In 1969, Srila Prabhupada spoke with a group of international students in Boston, telling them that "the idea of an international society is very nice, but we must try to understand what the central idea of an international society should be." Here Srila Prabhupada was hinting that simple proclamations of international feeling are not enough.
Not long before Srila Prabhupada spoke in Boston, I dropped out of the school of international affairs at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. I had enrolled in an idealistic spirit, hoping, among other things, to play a role in expanding the feeling of international cooperation that began in the Kennedy administration. But my Vietnam-era years in Washington left me with the realization that if I joined, for example, the U. S. State Department, I would always be compelled, when push came to shove, to stand up for the interests of the United States above all others. The desire to find a way to relate to all kinds of people on some common platform of equality was one thing that took me out of the Washington classrooms and into years of travel and self-exploration.
I had a feeling that things were somewhat as Srila Prabhupada explained to the students in Boston:
If the center is right, then you can draw any number of circles around that center and they'll never overlap.... Unfortunately, although everyone is feeling nationally or internationally, the center is missing. Therefore your international feeling and my international feeling, your national feeling and my national feeling, are overlapping and conflicting. So we have to find the proper center for our loving feeling. Then you can expand your circle of feelings, and it will not overlap or conflict with others.
What is the real central point? According to Srila Prabhupada, it is God. Of course, a lot of conflict has taken place in the name of God. But it takes place only when God is removed from the center and enlisted in the cause of sectarian views. Theists must therefore be careful to recognize God as the true center of being for all people, not just for some few who profess a particular faith. And this is natural, since all living things owe their existence to God.
By acknowledging our common origin and purpose, we can become free from the conceptions of friend and enemy. From the Srimad-Bhagavatam we learn the history of Prahlada, whose father, the demonic king Hiranyakasipu, tried to have him trained in diplomacy: "Prahlada certainly heard and recited the topics of politics and economics taught by the teachers, but he understood that political philosophy involves considering someone a friend and someone else an enemy, and thus he did not like it." I had the same feeling at George Washington University, sitting in political science classes.
Prahlada told his father, "Do not discriminate in your heart between enemies and friends; make your mind equipoised toward everyone. Except for the uncontrolled and misguided mind, there is no enemy within this world.... Enemies are merely imagined by one in ignorance."
Nationalism is a potent form of such ignorance. Perhaps this is because nationalism is, as Nehru says in his autobiography, Toward Freedom, "essentially an anti-feeling" built "on hatred and anger against other national groups."
Today, influenced by scientific theories that deny the existence of a nonmaterial conscious self, spiritual philosophies that lack clear conceptions of the soul, and the propaganda of a consumer society, people identify heavily with the body, thinking "I am American," "I am Russian," "I am Israeli," "I am Palestinian," and so on. Virulent nationalism and conflict are among the inevitable results.
To free us from the anti-feeling of nationalism, the Bhagavad-gita and other Vedic books give us the theoretical understanding that the self is different from the body. But there is also a practical program for realizing this—the chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra, which gives direct perception of the self. Srila Prabhupada said,
Because people are identifying with this material world, they are thinking, "I am an Indian," "I am an Englishman," "I am this," "I am that." But if one chants the Hare Krsna mantra, he will realize that he is not this material body. "I do not belong to this material body of this material world. I am a spirit soul, part and parcel of the Supreme. I am eternally related with Him, and I have nothing to do with this material world."
This, and not some vague altruistic sentiment, is the real formula for peace.
In the late 1950s, Srila Prabhupada wrote in India, after a meeting with the governor of the state of Bihar, "The children while playing together sometimes quarrel with one another and fight. But after fighting for some time when they become tired of such fighting mode, they declare some sort of peace with one another and promise emphatically that thence forward they shall play with peace and amity and shall cease to hurt one another." And when the children are tired of not fighting, they inevitably begin fighting again.
Srila Prabhupada therefore said: "We may tell the pacifists of the world that the peaceful atmosphere for which they are now so much anxious cannot be achieved by the dual process of fighting and peacemaking."
I found that out for myself when I joined the International Society for Krishna Consciousness in 1973, in Washington, D. C. The center on Q Street, near Dupont Circle, was not far from an old brownstone townhouse I had shared years before with some student friends at George Washington University, after moving out of the dorm. Some embassies, including that of India, were in the same neighborhood. For me the Q Street Hare Krsna center was also an embassy, but not one of any particular nation or combination of nations. All who entered that embassy and joined the chanting of the Lord's holy names were of the same citizenship, no matter what passports they carried. As Srila Prabhupada once said, the Hare Krsna centers are embassies of the spiritual world. Me? I'm just a low-level functionary at one such embassy, a cultural attache, a not very competent writer of reports, like this one.
Drutakarma Dasa is an Associate Editor of Back to Godhead. He lives in San Diego.
The worldwide activities of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON)
The Reverend Jesse Jackson visited the ISKCON center in Detroit this past March. There the Reverend Jackson met ISKCON devotee Lekhasravanti Dasi, the daughter of one of his heroes, the American labor leader Walter Reuther.
More than three thousand people in Atlanta attended ISKCON's three-day festival there in June. The festival commemorates a feast of yogurt and chipped rice in the pastimes of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
Members of the American Philosophical Association heard from Rasaraja Dasa of the Bhaktivedanta Institute at their April conference on "Knowledge and Reality." Rasaraja Dasa presented a paper entitled "Quantum Epistemology: A View for Gaudiya Vaisnava Vedanta."
The fighting in Yugoslavia hasn't prevented Krsna consciousness from spreading. Although books are harder to distribute because of monetary inflation, they're still going out, and devotees say people are more interested in Krsna than ever. During a ten-day tour by devotees from Germany and Belgrade, about six thousand people came to hear about Krsna, take food offered to Krsna, and chant the holy name of the Lord.
In one war-afflicted area, a military patrol was searching ruined houses for wounded citizens. Going through one house—nothing but a heap of bricks, covered with dust and mortar—a soldier noticed a small book still shrink-wrapped. It was Srila Prabhupada's Path of Perfection. Dusting the book off and putting it into his pocket, the soldier returned to the camp.
St. Petersburg city officials are helping ISKCON devotees start two new restaurants to feed people suffering in Russia's battered economy. People on welfare will eat free; others will pay. Each restaurant will seat 120 to 150 people. ISKCON's Cafe Govinda has given out free food in Saint Petersburg for the last two years. So the city gratefully arranged low-cost leases for the two new places, which devotees are now repairing.
The Russian Orthodox hierarchy in Saint Petersburg has offered ISKCON two empty churches in the center of the city. The churches are among the many given back by the Russian government to the archbishops, who now have more churches than they can manage.
Krishnas find fertile ground in Russia
by Stephanie Simon (Reprinted from the Chicago Tribune)
MOSCOW—Emerging from a decade of harsh persecution, the Hare Krishna movement has become Moscow's most visible religious sect.
Just five years after its adherents were jailed for chanting the Krishna mantra in public, the group has begun to proselytize vigorously. Colorful posters hang in subway cars, and orange-robed devotees sell literature in dozens of metro stations. On Sundays, Krishnas dance down the cobblestones of the Arbat pedestrian mall, encouraging people to participate.
During the last two years, the Krishnas claim to have sold 5 million books across the former Soviet Union and to have attracted tens of thousands of believers. They say the Moscow Krishna centers receives 3,000 letters a day, requiring 10 full-time employees to answer mail.
"The Russian people are very ready to look for and accept spiritual truths because they don't have material comforts," said Suren Karapetian, 34, who runs the Hare Krishna publishing house in Moscow.
"In America, where everything is wonderful and shiny, it's difficult to think about religious questions. But when we set up a bookstand in a Moscow metro station, 10 or 20 people gather around. They've never before seen books about the soul or about God distributed in public."
Karapetian spent two years in prison in the mid-1980s, when the Krishnas numbered less than 200 believers but attracted a disproportionate amount of official attention. The authorities raided their homes, detained them for questioning and forbade meetings of more than three Krishna believers.
"I was jailed for the crime of being a vegetarian and for being harmful to society because I followed the path of Krishna consciousness, because I spoke of God and the soul," said Karen Saakian, 34, who joined Karapetian in prison from 1985 to 1987.
Prison guards administered psychological drugs to induce the Krishnas to renounce their faith, Karapetian said, and injected caffeine into their veins to break their diet. Because they shun meat and animal fat, most Krishna prisoners ate only bread in prison.
"In those times, we never would have imagined that we would be able to sell books as openly as we are now," Saakian said. They also never would have dreamed of Saakian's current goal: to open a vegetarian soup kitchen that would serve 5,000 Muscovites a day.
About 100 Krishnas live in a group house in northwest Moscow. A small room doubles as dining room and sanctuary, with cardboard mats for kneeling at prayer. Devotees eat as they repeat the Krishna mantra.
Saakian said the house has become the model for similar Krishna centers throughout the Commonwealth of Independent States. Each branch is financially independent, supported by donations and book sales, he said.
The International Society for Krishna Consciousness introduced its literature to the Soviet Union in 1979 during the Moscow International Book Fair, and some of these texts ended up in public libraries, where young intellectuals like Karapetian and Saakian read them surreptitiously.
Today converts can buy the books openly in metro stations, at small folding tables surrounded by vendors hawking everything from newspapers to erotic posters to imported bubble gum. The literature is priced from 25 rubles to 200 rubles, about one-fifth of the average Russian's monthly salary, for the seminal Krishna text, "Bhagavad-Gita."
Most Krishna critics are fierce nationalists who condemn the movement as alien and un-Russian. (Krishna is a Hindu god.) But devotees say an element of foreignness helps attract younger converts.
"These days many people are thinking 'Why is there suffering here in Russia while there is happiness abroad?' " said Alexei Chervyakov, 19. "These books help to answer their questions."
As he stood at his book stall in the Oktyabrskaya (October) metro station, thousands of commuters swept by, many pausing to flip through the lushly illustrated "Bhagavad-Gita" or to stare at the colorful poster depicting an Indian religious festival.
A middle-aged woman stopped to say that her husband had died recently, and to ask Chervyakov why a benevolent God allows her to suffer so. Another asked for vegetarian recipes. But some come out of curiosity.
"I want to become familiar with many different interpretations of religion," said Alevtina Brodyak, 52, who had fought her way through the rush-hour crowd to reach Chervyakov's table.
"With all this perestroika and confusion, we need to pay attention to spiritual things," she said. "Classical music is one thing I find spiritually uplifting, and maybe these books will be another."
Chicago Tribune, March 8, 1992. Copyright Stephanie Simon. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
The king of Puri honored ISKCON's devotees with a several-day visit to Mayapur during the appearance-day festival for Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Soon after, the king also visited ISKCON's center in Bhubaneswar, Orissa. The king, His Majesty Gajapati Divasinghadev, is a descendant of King Prataparudra, who was an intimate associate of Lord Caitanya. The holy city of Puri is the site of the famous temple of Lord Jagannatha.
The mayor of Bombay inaugurated a successful two-month ISKCON drive to give out 100,000 copies of Bhagavad-gita As It Is. In January and February, leading Bombay businessmen and professionals sponsored free books for factories, colleges, hospitals, and orphanages, plus books to give out for a token price throughout the state of Maharashtra.
"The greatest need of the hour," said the mayor, Mr. Divakar Raote, "is to practice bhakti-yoga as propounded in the Gita. When Lord Krsna descended into this material world, He did not descend as a human being. He was still the Supreme God. That is the beauty of Lord Krsna's descent, and that's why His instructions are so special."
Millions of pilgrims gathered at Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh, for Kumbha Mela, the spiritual fair held there in April and May every twelve years. ISKCON devotees camped out, chanted Hare Krsna, and distributed prasadam, spiritual food, throughout the month-long event.
Businessmen in the city of Siliguri, West Bengal, are building a new ISKCON temple. The temple complex will include a school, guest house, retirement home, and devotee quarters, surrounded by a park. Siliguri is located in the far north of West Bengal, between Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, and the Indian states Bihar and Sikkhim.
Devotees in Bangalore have performed ceremonies dedicating land there for a new ISKCON temple. Construction is underway. Plans call for this to be ISKCON's second largest temple project in India, after the one in Mayapur, West Bengal.
Names of streets and villages in Mauritius are changing, at the request of ISKCON's Krsna Dasa Swami. The village formerly known as Beau Bois, site of an ISKCON temple and farm, is now officially Vrindaban. The road on which the temple is located is Hare Krishna Road. And other streets have been renamed Vrindaban Road and Bhaktivedanta Swami Lane. Local lawmakers, prodded and charmed by Krsna Dasa Swami, put the changes through.
Air Pacific's inflight magazine commends the Hare Krsna restaurants in Suva, Fiji. The food, says Islands magazine, "both satisfies the requirements of Lord Krishna and delights the palates of thousands of Suva's residents and visitors." Especially noted: "Krishna's special ice creams (fig is much fancied)" and Indian sweets that are "truly heavenly."
The Padayatra reached Jaipur at the end of June and is now walking across Rajasthan toward the Himalayas. In August the party will head toward Gangotri and Yamunotri. Then on September 7 they'll begin their ascent along the Ganges from Rishikesh to Kedarnath and Badrinath (Badarikasrama). If you'd like to take part in this three-week pilgrimage, contact the Padayatra office in Delhi.
The American Padayatra party is still on the move in Central America. With a bullock cart and a pair of white bulls from Guatemala, they're now walking through El Salvador towards Honduras.
Padayatra United Kingdom
On May 22 a party from Bhaktivedanta Manor started a two-month tour in England. A second excursion will start July 21 and keep going till early October.
After stopping for the winter, Padayatra Europe began again May 4 in southern Spain. Devotees will hold Rathayatra festivals in Valencia and in Barcelona, where the Hare Krsna festivities will coincide with the Olympic Games. After Spain, on to France at the start of August, and then Monaco, where thousands of tourists will be enjoying their summer vacation.
Padayatra New Zealand
On the north island, starting December 2.
"How to Start Your Own Padayatra," a detailed manual, is now available from the Padayatra Worldwide office in New Delhi. Cost: US $16, plus $4.00 for overseas postage.
For more information, write to:
HERE'S A Krsna conscious project you might like to support or get involved in.
The BBT Library Party (India).
Hare Krishna Land, Juhu, Bombay.
Bhima Dasa Adhikari (Chairman), Mahamantra Dasa Brahmacari (Director), Padmanabha Dasa Adhikari (Business Manager).
To distribute ISKCON's books to educational institutions, public and private libraries, and the general public throughout India and Nepal.
The Library Party of the BBT (Bhaktivedanta Book Trust) was originally formed by Gargamuni Dasa in 1977 under the direction of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. In spite of a lack of manpower and living comforts, the Library Party devotees traveled widely, often meeting with chief ministers and state ministers for education, who gave reviews and courteous recommendations for Srila Prabhupada's books. Journalists and newspaper owners occasionally gave free advertising for ISKCON's books, stirring public interest.
The party visited major educational institutions in cities and towns throughout India. In two years many school libraries bought the few English titles of Srila Prabhupada's books then available in India. The party stopped traveling in 1979, due in part to the inadequate supply of foreign copies of Prabhupada's books.
In June 1991 a reactivated BBT Library Party was formed. Now six devotees travel in a Tata 1210 bus and stay three or four days in each location. The devotees park the bus in the crowded city streets and attract the townspeople with kirtana. Four devotees alternately staff the book table at the back of the bus, where people get the chance to buy ISKCON books, now available not only in English but in every major Indian language. Two devotees visit colleges nearby. They meet the principals and introduce Srila Prabhupada's books. From June to December 1991, the party distributed 4,087 copies of Srila Prabhupada's books.
Bhima Dasa, a member of the original party, explains why the Library Party started again after twelve years: "The stack of files housing the records of the old party inspired us. Seeing the files gathering dust over the years made us realize we have a great responsibility to finished the efforts of the devotees on the previous Library Party. Their only motivation was the pleasure Srila Prabhupada felt by hearing of the book sales. Before leaving for America in the sixties, Srila Prabhupada himself led the way in library party work by distributing to government libraries in New Delhi his original three volumes of the First Canto of the Srimad-Bhagavatam."
In 1992-93 the Library Party will involve Indian well-wishers in financing the distribution of sets of books for schools that can't afford them. Preliminary proposals include distribution to the libraries of Madhya Pradesh state.
The vast geographical size of India and Nepal, the enormous number of libraries and educational institutions of all levels, and the paucity of funds in rural schools.
How You Can Help
Travel with the BBT Library Party (men only) and experience Indian culture while distributing Srila Prabhupada's books. Prabhupada encouraged devotees to stay for a year or more in India rendering devotional service.
Give a computer, much needed for organization.
Help set up a database.
Donate English books for poor libraries.
Give money or vehicles in India.
In the U. S. A.:
Vaninatha Vasu Dasa
Bhima Dasa or Mahamantra Dasa
At the Festival in India, 1992
Devotees from around the world come to ISKCON's yearly gathering.
by Jayadvaita Swami
EVERY SPRING, the Hare Krsna movement holds its annual get-together in India. In Mayapur, West Bengal, nestled on the bank of the Ganges, two dozen world leaders of the Hare Krsna movement meet to plan out the movement's work for the coming year. Then hundreds of other devotees join them for a two-week spiritual festival. After the Mayapur celebrations, the devotees move on for ten days in Vrndavana, the pastime place of Lord Krsna. Then everyone scatters back out around the world, for another year.
What happened at the meetings? And what went on at the festivals? Here's a report.
By all reports, the meetings of the GBC, the movement's Governing Body Commission, were smooth and convivial. The resolutions mostly came out humdrum—some committee work here, some funding there. Nothing revolutionary. Hardly anything shocking. Business as usual. (Most devotees saw this as a good sign.)
Still, a few highlights stand out.
Centennial Celebration Committee
In 1996, one hundred years will have passed since the birth of the teacher who spread the Hare Krsna movement to the world—His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
To see that this centennial gets celebrated in a big way, the GBC set up a Ministry, headed by veteran devotee Lokanatha Swami. He's already making plans, and if you'd like to help you can get in touch with him at his office in New Delhi: 62 Sant Nagar (2nd floor), New Delhi 110 065, India. Telephone and fax: +91 (11) 642-17-63.
Is the Hare Krsna movement Hindu or isn't it? The GBC drafted an official statement to set things straight. (See page 64.)
New GBC Members
The Governing Body added two new members. Madhusevita Dasa, from Italy, will help oversee the work of the Hare Krsna movement in Italy, Greece, Cyprus, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg. Romapada Swami, from America, will work in New York and New Jersey.
The GBC also set up a new arrangement by which lesser known leaders can share in GBC duties and gradually join the GBC body. The first of those leaders, known as "candidates for GBC," will be Dhanvantari Swami, from Brazil. The GBC also plans to send several such candidates to strengthen the Hare Krsna movement in Africa.
New Places in Vrndavana
The GBC approved funds for the purchase of new properties in Vrndavana, India, the land of Lord Krsna's pastimes. We'll tell you more after the deals have gone through.
University in Mayapur
The GBC expressed its desire to set up a university in Mayapur. The body appointed senior member Hridayananda Dasa Goswami to get the project started.
Vedic Cultural Museum
ISKCON has a temple in Potomac, Maryland, near Washington, D.C. Situated on a beautiful estate, it's potentially wonderful but has never really gotten very far. Now a group of devotees has proposed to develop a Vedic Cultural Museum on the site, along with the existing temple. The GBC approved the idea and encouraged the devotees to raise the needed funds.
Encircling the Spiritual World
This year the Mayapur festival had a new feature: a weeklong tour, on foot, of the holy places encircling the Mayapur area. Five centuries ago, Lord Krsna appeared in Mayapur in His incarnation as Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu. So Mayapur is considered as good as Vrndavana, Lord Krsna's eternal abode.
In previous years, devotees had gone out to visit pilgrimage sites by bus. But bus trips can't match the spiritual taste of staying out on the road.
So the tour by foot will now be part of the festival every year.
ISKCON's Campus Expanding
Pilgrims to Mayapur this year saw lots of new projects in the works and nearly finished—new residence buildings and guest houses, an electrical powerhouse, and a printing press for books and magazines in Bengali.
Work on the Puspa Samadhi, a memorial to Srila Prabhupada, is steadily moving ahead. But this imposing building, the largest and tallest for miles around, will still take at least two more years to complete.
Lord Krsna always stands with His eternal consort Srimati Radharani, the supreme goddess of fortune. And Radha and Krsna are always surrounded by Her spiritual expansions in the form of cowherd maidens, or gopis.
Some years ago, Calcutta businessman Sri Mahadeo Tulsian, initiated in ISKCON as Radhapada Dasa, had a dream. In his dream he saw Krsna and Radharani and the eight main gopis installed as Deities in ISKCON's Mayapur temple. So he offered to pay to have the Deities carved in Jaipur, in the state of Rajasthan, and brought to Mayapur.
Radha and Krsna came first and were duly set in the temple. Four gopis followed. But the other four gopis were slow in coming. Years have gone by and only four gopis.
This year the other four arrived.
So now the dream has been fulfilled. Radha and Krsna reveal themselves in Sridham Mayapur in all-attractive spiritual beauty, surrounded by Their eight loving gopi companions.
Sweetness in Vrndavana
The gathering in Vrndavana, ninety miles south of Delhi, was smaller and more intimate than in Mayapur. The high point of the program: the annual boat festival.
For the boat festival, the courtyard of ISKCON's temple is filled with water. The courtyard becomes a lake, and in the evening small Deities of Radha and Krsna glide about in the lake on a small boat pulled by devotees. Chanting of Hare Krsna, dramas of Krsna's pastimes, and sharing of sweets and fruits invoke a spiritual atmosphere, by which those who attend feel transported to Lord Krsna's spiritual abode.
Then all the devotees go back to their places around the world, to serve Lord Krsna for another year.
Jayadvaita Swami is the editor-in-chief of Back to Godhead.
An address given on Indian Republic Day,
by Badrinarayana Dasa
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, directors of the Federation of Indian Associations,
Thank you for giving me this opportunity to address you. As you can see, I am not born into an Indian family. So it is natural to ask, "What is my connection here? What do I have to say that may be relevant to the occasion?"
It has been noted that a convert's zeal is at times more than that of a native. The native born into a tradition sometimes takes it for granted. But the convert, after carefully studying the matter, makes a conscious choice with heart and intellect to accept a particular path. So his is a deep and loving conviction. Kipling has written, "East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet." The fact that I am standing before you in Vaisnava dress calls that premise into question.
Vaisnava tradition teaches that we are dasa dasa anudasa, the humble servants of the servants of the servants of the Supreme Lord. Or as Caitanya Mahaprabhu says, trnadapi sunicena: "One should chant the holy name of the Lord in a humble state of mind, thinking oneself lower than the straw in the street." So I hope not to violate this principle of humility.
I have been asked to take a moment and explain my personal progression towards practicing a way of life based on the Vedic teachings.
I was born here in southern California and raised in Laguna Beach, where I surfed, rode a motorcycle, went to high school, and was accepted into a prestigious university. I was set to live a life based on the so-called American dream. But inside I felt a deep vacuum.
I have thought about that emptiness I felt, and I can divide it into three general categories: philosophical, ethical, and personal.
Philosophically, I am indebted to my Christian upbringing. The basic moral principles taught in that tradition served well to help mold my character for the better. But still I couldn't find substantial answers for some unsettling questions.
Daily we see disparities in life. If there is a just and merciful God, why are some born with sight, some born blind? Why are some rich, some poor? Why do evil deeds apparently go unpunished? How can we live only one short life and then potentially spend eternity in a fiery hell? Searching through the words of Western philosophers and writers, I found no truly satisfying answers.
Ethically—in social concerns and personal moral standards—I saw a society decaying at the core. I protested Vietnam but then saw Central America, the Middle East, homelessness, inner-city blight, and the global environmental collapse. The list goes on and on.
If I may be allowed one aside, here are two lists compiled by the California State Police and the California Department of Education. They show the top discipline problems in schools in 1940 and again in 1990. I'll read the problems of 1940 first.
Top Problems in 1940
As you can see, quite dangerous. Now for the problems of the 1990's.
Top Problems Today
1. Drug abuse
My spiritual master referred to children as "the flower of a society." But here we see what our cultural climate is bringing forth. No doubt we've made progress, but in what direction? The moth also progresses, but into the flame. And what you find in education is just a sample of the decay in almost every sphere. It was a grim picture I saw, and with no visible means of relief.
In my personal life also—in my sense of self-worth, fulfillment, and satisfaction—I felt emptiness.
As I have said, I was born into a well-to-do family. I had all I wanted and more, with a successful career path and a comfortable life before me. All I had to do was stay on the conveyor belt, so to speak, and I'd "have it all."
But to live a pampered life of high-tech creature comforts is ultimately shallow and meaningless, and I knew it. There had to be more depth and purpose to life.
So philosophically, ethically, and personally I felt a great vacuum.
Into that emptiness, by the mercy of Sri Krsna and my spiritual master, I received the message of Bhagavad-gita.
"This knowledge is the king of education, the most secret of all secrets. It is the purest knowledge, and because it gives direct perception of the self by realization, it is the perfection of religion. It is everlasting, and it is joyfully performed."
Again, Krsna says in the Gita,
mattah parataram nanyat
"O conqueror of wealth, there is no truth superior to Me. Everything rests upon me, as pearls are strung on a thread."
These are deep subjects we could speak about extensively, but for the sake of time I will touch on them only briefly.
The principles of karma and reincarnation answered my doubts about a God of justice and mercy. As explained in the Bhagavad-gita, each life is part of a progressive education. The soul transmigrates from life to life, each life preparing and prodding us to return to our real home, the paravyoma, or spiritual world, for loving association with the Supreme Lord.
To quote Shakespeare in a transcendent light,
All the world's a stage,
The apparent inequities are all part of a divine choreography directed by the loving hand of Lord Sri Krsna for our eternal benefit. Now the parts of the puzzle began to fall into place, creating a worldview that was philosophically sound and satisfying.
Ethically, the Vedas present the concept of a society based on dharma, or religious principles. In the Bhagavata Purana, dharma is compared to a bull, its four legs being truthfulness, compassion, external and internal cleanliness, and austerity or self-control. Underlying and supporting all this is the concept of seva, or selfless service to the Supreme, with all living beings understood to be His parts and parcels.
By applying these principles ourselves and teaching them to others, we can foster a moral vision that can potentially relieve the multiple social ills we face.
We've spoken of philosophy and ethics. Now as for our personal sense of satisfaction: In the Bhagavata Purana the soul is referred to as pariksit, or the examiner. Like Diogenes, who wandered Athens searching for an honest man, the soul is searching life after life for a truly satisfying and fulfilling relationship. In Christian weddings the ceremony often concludes by the couple's saying, "Till death do us part." A perceptive person will note that however happy a couple may be, death will inevitably come and we will all be forced to part ways.
But if we are convinced that we are eternal, we must naturally find a relationship that is eternal. That relationship is our relationship with Krsna.
Material enjoyment inevitably reaches a saturation point. Ever wonder why everything is advertised "new and improved"? Because the old taste or experience has become stale and pedestrian.
But the name "Krsna" literally means "the all-attractive," or the fountainhead of all pleasure. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu describes loving service to the Lord as anandambudhi-vardhanam, an ever-increasing ocean of spiritual happiness.
The daily acts of devotion taught in the science of bhakti-yoga helped reawaken within me the realization that God truly does exist and will reveal Himself as we surrender unto Him.
As a hungry man, upon eating, feels satisfaction and renewed strength, by practicing a daily life of devotion I found profound peace and enlightenment. The process is genuine and personally verifiable.
So philosophically, ethically, and personally I was enlightened and satisfied when East met West through the Bhagavad-gita and the guidance of my spiritual master. Therefore I stand before you in Vaisnava dress.
Now, how do I believe this applies beyond my own experience? Currently there is much ado over the five-hundredth anniversary of Christopher Columbus's coming to America. But it's interesting to note: he wasn't looking for America, he was trying to find India. Of course, he was trying to find jewels and gold and spices. But India's real wealth, and her gift to the world, is her vast treasure of Vedic knowledge and spiritual vision.
Communism has collapsed, and capitalism is struggling as well. People everywhere are searching for an alternative worldview.
I had an uncle who used to say, "There's more than one way to be wrong." It's not that if one concept is found bankrupt its opposite is automatically valid. There is talk of a New World Order, but that new order can be just as confused as the old one. The compass of transcendental wisdom found in the Vedas can help us set the right alternative course.
My story is far from unique. We find it played out again and again. The official name for the Hare Krsna movement is the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. We represent 350 temples, farms, and asramas in seventy-five countries, with books in more than seventy languages. From the former Soviet Union to China to Africa to the Middle East to a proposed bullock-cart procession across Cuba, we find the same result. Regardless of cultural climate, religious tradition, or money in the bank, people all over the world are taking to the Vedic world-view and having their lives immeasurably enriched and enhanced.
Recently I was in India and went to purchase a lota [a small metal pot]. In the shop there was a metal lota and a bright orange plastic one. The metal lota was twenty rupees, and the plastic lota cost more. Now, you know that a metal lota is easy to clean. Beverages taste much better from a metal utensil. Metal doesn't crack. In other words, metal is better in every regard.
So I asked the shopkeeper, "Why would I want to pay more for an inferior product?"
The shopkeeper responded in almost reverential tones, "But it is plastic, like in America."
We are being sold a materialistic worldview of ever-increasing consumption. But it's time to stop and take stock of what it has done for us and our society. Are we better off and happier because of it?
Today we are honoring Republic Day. I would like to remind you that you are the custodians of a precious, noble, and much-needed legacy. The world is crying in darkness, and the light of the Vedas can dispel that darkness. The Bhagavata Purana advises, "If a gentleman sees a blind man going down the wrong path, how can he sit idly by?" It is our sacred duty to make our personal lives examples of the Vedic teachings and give this knowledge to others.
In closing I'd like to leave you with an example drawn by my spiritual master. If you have a blind man and a lame man, neither one can walk. But if the blind man with good legs carries the lame man who has good eyes, together they can travel successfully. Similarly, India, exploited for centuries by foreigners, is like a lame man. And America is like a blind man, physically sound but with dim vision and little sense of direction. But together they can both travel successfully.
If East meets West and they combine under the guidance of Vedic insight, the whole world will benefit. That is India's true wealth and her greatest gift to humankind. Thank you and Hare Krsna.
Badrinarayana Dasa is ISKCON's Governing Body Commissioner for southern California and several of the western and mid-western states. He is also president of the San Diego temple.
Where Is Your Religion?
The following conversation between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and a journalist took place in Los Angeles on December 30, 1968.
Journalist: The biggest problem preventing men, at least American men, and women from loving God or following the Ten Commandments is the sexual problem. And there is nothing in Western culture that teaches or helps a young person cope with this very difficult problem. I went through it. We all have. Now, do you in your message give young people something to hang on to, and if so, what?
Srila Prabhupada: I ask all my disciples to get married. I don't allow this living with boyfriend, girlfriend. No, you must get yourself married. Live like a gentleman. Treat your wife as an assistant. Treat your husband as your provider. In this way, I am teaching them. This boy was married just four days ago. He is a professor. So I have got so many of my disciples married, and they are living very happily. This girl is married. Formerly, they were living as boyfriend, girlfriend. I don't allow that.
Journalist: Let me get a little more basic. How about when someone is fourteen, fifteen, sixteen years old?
Srila Prabhupada: We teach our boys to become brahmacari. Brahmacari means to lead a life of celibacy.
Journalist: Yes, I understand.
Disciple: Brahmacari means control of the senses. He teaches us how to control the senses. Generally, marriage doesn't take place until a boy is about twenty-two, twenty-three, twenty-five.
Journalist: You mean in Indian culture?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. We select a girl, say, about sixteen, seventeen years old, and boys not more than twenty-four years old. I get them married. And because their attention is diverted to Krsna consciousness, they have very little interest simply for sex life. They have got better engagement. Param drstva nivartate. We give a substitute. We don't simply say, "You don't do it." But we give them something better. Then automatically the "don't" comes.
Journalist: At the right time.
Srila Prabhupada: Immediately. We give some better engagement.
Journalist: What is that?
Srila Prabhupada: Our boys and girls are all engaged in the business of Krsna consciousness—in temple work, in painting, in typing, in recording, so many things. And they are happy. They are not going to the cinema, they are not going to clubs, they are not drinking, they are not smoking. So practically, I am teaching them how to control their senses. And this means it is possible. These boys and girls are all Americans. They are not imported from India. Why have they taken to this? The system is so nice that they like it. If you spread this system, everything will be solved.
Journalist: So then it ...
Srila Prabhupada: We don't prohibit men from mixing with women. We don't say that you should stop sex life. But we make everything regulated under Krsna consciousness. The aim is higher.
Journalist: Well, the answer seems to be very pat, so to speak, and if it's that simple ...
Srila Prabhupada: If you cooperate, then I can change the whole thing in your country. The people will be very happy. Everything will be nice. This Krsna consciousness movement is so nice. But nobody is cooperating. These boys, they have kindly come to me, and they are cooperating. So my movement is progressing, but very slowly. But if the leaders of the American people understand and introduce this system, your country will be the nicest country in the world.
Journalist [to disciple]: From a practical point, how has this sexual thing the swami is talking about affected you? Have you found there is efficacy in what we have been talking about? To me it's a very paramount problem in terms of young people.
Disciple: Well, there are desires, and we have so many desires. And the sexual desire is perhaps one of our strongest desires.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, yes.
Disciple: So these desires are channeled, so to speak. They are redirected toward Krsna.
Journalist: I understand that. But I'm saying is it efficacious? Does it work?
Disciple: Yes, it works. But you have to stick with it. It can be very difficult, especially at first, but it works.
Journalist: Now, I want to understand this thoroughly. In other words, it's nothing that you feel that you're giving up.
Disciple: No, it's that when you see something better ...
Journalist: That's what I mean.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, you are accepting something better.
Journalist: Better, yes. Not by just biting your tongue or your lip saying, "I won't touch it, I won't touch it." There's a substitute.
Disciple: It's very human not to give up something unless you have something better. So you have to get something better than what you want to give up.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes.
Krsna Conscious Family Life
by Mulaprakrti Devi Dasi and Visakha Devi Dasi
SRILA PRABHUPADA envisioned a Krsna conscious society. And that implies harmonious relationships among individuals, families, and communities, sharing a common culture. Because the grhastha (household) asrama is a pillar of a Krsna conscious society, developing it and making it healthy are mandatory and will bring us closer to creating "a house in which the whole world can live." To that end, we'd like to explore this important part of Krsna consciousness.
Let us begin with a verse from the Srimad-Bhagavatam (9.3.10) and Srila Prabhupada's purport:
sukanya cyavanam prapya
"Cyavana Muni was very irritable, but since Sukanya had gotten him as her husband, she dealt with him carefully, according to his mood. Knowing his mind, she performed service to him without being bewildered."
Purport: "This is an indication of the relationship between husband and wife. A great personality like Cyavana Muni has the temperament of always wanting to be in a superior position. Such a person cannot submit to anyone. Therefore, Cyavana Muni had an irritable temperament. His wife, Sukanya, could understand his attitude, and under the circumstances she treated him accordingly. If any wife wants to be happy with her husband, she must try to understand her husband's temperament and please him. This is victory for a woman. ... However great a woman may be, she must place herself before her husband in this way; that is to say, she must be ready to carry out her husband's orders and please him in all circumstances. Then her life will be successful. ... According to the Vedic law, there is no such thing as divorce laws, and a woman must be trained to be submissive to the will of her husband. Westerners contend that this is slave mentality for the wife, but factually it is not; it is the tactic by which a woman can conquer the heart of her husband..."
For most of us in the modern Western world, this viewpoint sounds archaic, unattainable, prejudiced, macho, and suffocating. Yet these are the words of the Srimad-Bhagavatam, the summum bonum scripture that is nondifferent from Lord Sri Krsna, the scripture that arose to illuminate this dark age of quarrel, as the brilliant sun rises after a long gloomy night. By taking a closer look at this controversial aspect of the Bhagavatam's and Srila Prabhupada's teachings, we hope to find how they should apply in practice.
It seems that Cyavana Muni arranged for King Saryati's daughter, Sukanya, to unintentionally offend him. To make amends for this offense, Sukanya became Cyavana Muni's bride. Thus the beautiful, lotus-eyed, innocent, and highly qualified princess, in the prime of her life, was married to the very old sage.
Cyavana Muni was not an attractive mate. His skin hung loosely on his bones, veins showed all over his body, he was diseased, and he was so much an invalid that he couldn't walk without assistance. Beyond that, he had a difficult, irritable, and domineering personality.
What a match! Most of us would at once predict failure for this relationship. An ordinary woman would have been furious, depressed, resentful, and rebellious. With spouses seeming far more compatible, so many of our contemporary marriages have dissolved. But Sukanya, like most women of her time, was far from ordinary by today's standards. It was her superlative qualities that created a glorious marriage.
Although her feminine attributes are rarely found today, her example can give us helpful insights for modern marriages. First and foremost, she accepted her situation. Not only did she steer clear of entertaining negative emotions and reactions, but she was satisfied. She belonged to a glorious culture based on dharma, on following God-given laws and duties, and she was true to those laws and duties. Therefore she had an inner commitment and happiness that were unshakeable. Her happiness came from having understood her relationship with Krsna, with herself, and with others. She was chaste, kind, honest, unselfish, responsible, and high in moral standards. Through sincerity and training, she freed herself from pride, envy, anger, false ego, low self-esteem, and other shortcomings. Sukanya's priority was to somehow make her family life God conscious and successful. Thus she could be happy in any situation ordained by the Lord.
Because of her wisdom and high principles, Sukanya felt no need to try to change her husband. She accepted him for who he was and looked to his good side, allowing him to assert his masculinity and directorship without reproach. Their relationship was on Cyavana's terms, yet by trusting and respecting him, humbly and patiently, she made the marriage succeed. And eventually all of her heart's desires were fulfilled.
In the days of Vedic marriages, men were trained to be qualified husbands—to be men of honor, commitment, vision, and achievement and provide the support, protection, and spiritual guidance their wives needed. Women, as mentioned, were trained to be qualified wives—to provide the shelter, support, and admiration their husbands needed. Generally parents would pick their child's mate, basing the choice not on appearances or the whims of lust but on complementary age, family, character, and quality as well as astrological considerations. It was understood that if the husband and wife were compatible and well trained, household affairs would be smooth.
Although Sukanya didn't have the benefit of an apparently compatible match, she wasn't bewildered. Quitting or divorce were not options for her. [See Caitanya-caritamrita, Madhya-lila 15.264-5] The relationship had to work, so she made it her special responsibility to ensure that success.
Those of us who lack Sukanya's training and her devotion to dharma might object to this. But without those assets our own family members may be dissatisfied, and our home lives will have a great chance of being disturbed. As Srila Prabhupada writes, "Almost 99.9 percent of the population is unhappy in family life, despite all the attempts being made to satisfy the family members. In the Western countries, due to the dissatisfaction of the family members, there is actually no family life" (Srimad-Bhagavatam 5.13.8, purport).
It is a great loss to our modern society that we don't often find the synergistic power that is generated when a wife conquers the heart of her husband by her submissiveness and the husband allows the softhearted, intuitive, and inspirational qualities of his wife to propel him to fulfill his most cherished dreams. "There is no difference between a good wife and good intelligence," Srila Prabhupada writes. "A faithful wife is supposed to cooperate with her husband in fulfilling all material desires so that he can then become comfortable and execute spiritual activities for the perfection of life" (Srimad-Bhagavatam 3.14.17, purport). A successful Krsna conscious marriage is not for sensual satisfaction (although happiness is a byproduct); it's a duty performed in mutual cooperation and maturity for spiritual advancement.
We who are trying to be devotees have declared war against the illusions of material life. By nature's arrangement, the majority of us are not yet ready to accept lifelong renunciation; we need family life. A healthy household asrama will be a stabilizing influence, the financial backbone of a varnasrama society, and the hope for improving future generations. To avoid family life artificially, or to flounder in it, may cause one to lose the very prowess and shelter that are essential for continuing one's battle against material life. After all, one cannot renounce something one hasn't transcended within oneself; the majority of us must take each gradual stage until we are strong and satisfied at heart, and then advance on.
But household life is often difficult. Those of us who have come from dysfunctional families are often emotionally and spiritually immature. A man and woman may enter household life with certain expectations and misconceptions and when the relationship turns tense become disappointed and want to leave that situation for another. When a young disciple asked permission to give up family life for the life of vanaprastha (the prelude to formal renunciation), Srila Prabhupada responded by letter in this way: "You say that your association together was hindering your advancement. But Krsna conscious marriage should not be taken in that way, that if there is any botheration that means something is hindering my spiritual progress, no."
Once one adopts the grhastha life, Srila Prabhupada continued, "even [if] it may be troublesome at times, it must be fulfilled as my occupational duty.
"Mature understanding of Krsna consciousness," Srila Prabhupada explained, "means that whatever condition of life I am in at present, that is Krsna's special mercy upon me. Therefore let me take advantage in the best way possible to spread this Krsna consciousness movement and conduct my spiritual master's mission."
Although one might not like one's occupation in household life, Srila Prabhupada said, "devotional service is what is important, not my occupational duty." Yet he concluded, "This does not mean that because my occupational duty is not the real consideration, I should give it up and do something else, thinking that devotional service may be carried on under whatever circumstances I may whimsically decide."
We enter household life with a desire to advance spiritually, even though advancement is often difficult because of our lack of culture, training, supportive association, and good examples. But it's quite clear that Srila Prabhupada wanted us to stay where we are supposed to be and not jump prematurely to a renounced order of life, or jump from one mate to another. So the fundamental question becomes: how can we make our marriages even remotely resemble the glorious marriage of Cyavana Muni and Sukanya? By hearing Srila Prabhupada's teachings on this point, by learning from his followers who have long, stable marriages, by striving for honest introspection into our own nature, and by learning the art of spiritual association with our devotee peers. In this way we may bring light into the deep, dark well called family life.
• how to make the differences between men and women more productive
Mulaprakrti Devi Dasi, a disciple of Srila Prabhupada, has been married to Gopavrndapala Dasa since 1977. They and their three children live in the devotee community in Badger, California. She works with devotees in the women's support groups and counseling.
Visakha Devi Dasi was initiated and married by Srila Prabhupada in 1971. She lives in Badger with her husband, Yaduvara Dasa, and their daughter, aged nine.
Sometimes, it seems, devotees of the Hare Krsna movement say that Krsna consciousness is a form of Hinduism. Yet at other times we say it's not Hindu at all—it's nonsectarian. So we seem to swing back and forth according to convenience.
Several friendly Hindu organizations have called us up on it. What are we—Hindu or not? Even ISKCON's leaders seem to give contradictory answers.
So ISKCON's governing body this year drafted a statement to make our position clear That statement reads as follows:
The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), also known as the Hare Krsna movement, was founded by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. ISKCON follows the teachings of the Vedas and the Vedic scriptures, including Bhagavad-gita and the Bhagavata Purana. It teaches and practices Vaisnavism, or devotion to God in the supreme personal aspect of Radha-Krsna.
ISKCON receives these teachings through the preceptorial line known as the Brahma-Madhva-Gaudiya Sampradaya. This well-established traditional line descends through the respected teacher Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu (A.D. 1486-1534), the full incarnation of Sri Krsna, whose philosophy and practices unify the teachings of all four major Vaisnava acaryas: Sri Madhvacarya, Sri Ramanujacarya, Sri Visnu Swami, and Sri Nimbarkacarya.
ISKCON embraces the chanting of the holy name of Krsna as a primary practice and accepts the concepts of transmigration, karma, vegetarianism (ahimsa), worship of the Deity (Sri Vigraha), and the preceptor-disciple (guru-sisya) relationship. Initiated members vow to refrain from gambling, illicit sex, intoxicants (including coffee, tea, and cigarettes), and nonvegetarian food.
In this way ISKCON faithfully continues the core traditions of the Hindu faith. ISKCON's teachings are nonsectarian and nondenominational, for they are not limited to any particular historical religion. Vaisnavism inculcates the essential and universal principle of all religion. That principle, called sanatana-dharma in Sanskrit, denotes the natural and eternal activity of all living beings-loving devotional service to the one Supreme Personality of Godhead.